This Week in History (1977): Coffee rush prompts rationing

Coffee was a steaming hot commodity in Prince George this week in 1977, thanks to a global coffee shortage that meant prices would soon soar by as much as a dollar a pound.*

As residents rushed to stock up on existing supplies of lower-priced brew — then selling for between $2.29 to $2.89 per pound — some local grocers began limiting customers to four or six pounds of coffee each. Other merchants had no coffee left on the shelves at all. At stores where rationing was in effect, cashiers watched customers breeze through the checkout with a maximum load of coffee not only for themselves, but for each of their school-aged children, too.

Amid the hubbub, officials warned shoppers that “buying 40-50 pounds of coffee for domestic use could be a waste if it isn’t used soon enough,” according to the Prince George Citizen on January 11, 1977.

Retail prices on shipments of new coffee stock, set for delivery later in the week, were expected to be around $3.50 per pound.

The price of ground coffee in Prince George today? Over $9.30 a pound.

*  The coffee shortage was a consequence of severe frosts in Brazil in 1975, which destroyed almost 40 per cent of the annual global coffee supply, as well as natural disasters that affected other coffee-producing nations in 1976. 

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