The site of Port of New Orleans' dilapidated public grain elevator soon will house the second green bulk coffee terminal in the United States. The first
bulk complex was opened earlier this year by Dupuy Storage & Forwarding Corp.
Dupuy already had been handling some of the one-ton, cube-shaped plastic bags called super sacks when the third-generation family operation opened its $4 million bulk facility this past spring.The four Dupuy brothers converted a glass-bottle manufacturing plant that had closed in 1985 and rehabilitated a nearby 330,000-square-foot warehouse to house their bulk operation. A silo of 11 bins that had held silica sand, soda ash and limestone for the bottling plant was converted to 27 cells for the
The three-story building uses a belt-bucket elevator and debags, cleans and blends the beans, which are weighed in the silo. Computers control a pneumatic system that speeds beans through tubes at up to 80,000 pounds an hour.
At the Port of New Orleans Uptown wharves, an Italian group, Pacorini Finanzaria SpA, is spending some $12 million to convert the 203-bin concrete silo that remains at the site of the port's public grain elevator, which was demolished in 1990 when the port embarked upon its decade-long capital improvements project.
The Italians operate bulk coffee terminals in Trieste, Italy and Vitoria, Brazil. The six-year-old Trieste plant has a 10,000-ton bin capacity. With a capacity of 2 million cubic feet, or 20,000 tons, the New Orleans terminal will be the largest of the company's operations.
A year ago, Pacorini executives signed a 20-year lease with the New Orleans Dock Board for the three-acre facility. The Italians will pay the port a minimum of $48,000 in annual rent once the facility opens in February. Thereafter, the coffee operation will pay the port a minimum of $138,000, with terms dependent on throughput.
Federico Pacorini said the operation is expected to bring in about 165,000 short tons of coffee next year, and work up to some 265,000 tons by 1996.
Through September of this year, coffee imports at the Port of New Orleans topped 252,000 tons. In 1991, nearly 322,000 tons of coffee moved across New Orleans' wharves.
But the green coffee the Pacorinis will import won't be all new cargo, said Benjamin Boor, production supply manager for Folgers Coffee Co. in Cincinnati. Folgers this year added a $60 million expansion to its roasting plant in eastern New Orleans and signed an agreement for Silocaf to handle about half its imports through New Orleans. The expansion allows the plant to handle bulk coffee.
Mr. Boor said Folgers, which along with Hills Brothers are the two largest coffee importers at New Orleans, intends to switch half its imports over to
bulk shipments that would arrive in New Orleans in 15-ton, lined metal containers. Folgers currently accounts for more than half the coffee imported to New Orleans in 130- or 150-pound burlap bags.
The advantage of the bulk plant for port traffic will be that much of that coffee, which previously had been delivered by rail from entry points such as Houston; Mobile, Ala.; Jacksonville, Fla., and Miami, will arrive by ship, said Robert Gambini, Silocaf president.
Folgers also is considering moving coffee it now imports through Houston and Laredo, Texas, to the Port of New Orleans, Mr. Boor said. Folgers also operates coffee roasting plants in Kansas City, Houston and Sherman, Texas.
Folgers teamed up with the Italian group after using the Pacorini's Trieste plant. The Procter & Gamble subsidiary operates a small coffee company in Italy.
When the conversion of the 65-year-old bins are complete, the bulk facility will receive, sort, clean, upgrade and bag coffee. The coffee beans will move through the 140-foot-tall silo bins on a complex system of computerized conveyors. The Pacorinis claimed the system will reduce microtoxins and eliminate dust from the beans. The automated operation, which will employ only 18 workers and can be run by two, also can sort beans individually and remove broken beans to upgrade large quantities of beans to uniform color and size.
Besides converting the silo bins, the Pacorinis are building a tower on either side of the facility for intake and takeout deliveries. The initial phase of Silocaf will operate at 70 percent capacity.
Mr. Pacorini said his company intends to invest an additional $5 million by 1995 to bring the facility up to full operating capacity.
But the owners of the new bulk plants insist their operations won't wipe out the traditional method of transporting coffee in bags.
Since the breakdown of the world coffee agreement, New Orleans has become a major storage site for green coffee. Stored coffee skyrocketed from some 200,000 bags in 1989 to 1.3 million bags last year. This year that tally has increased to 1.6 million bags.
"There's an excess capacity for production of coffee worldwide," said Allan Colley, president of Dupuy Storage. "So much more has been coming into the warehouses since the collapse turned loose supplies of the major producers."