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COLOMBIA – Gain Report sees production at 10.8 million bags in 2013/14

BOGOTA – Better weather and a more robust harvest of the 2010 replanted areas with rust-resistant varieties, in addition to the initial harvests of the 2011 replanted areas, will increase production to 10.8 million bags in 2013/14, says the Coffee Annual report on Colombia, recently issued by USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

Production is forecast to increase further in MY 2014/15 to 11.9 million bags GBE if weather remains favorable. The looming El Niño phenomenon and likely drought conditions could impact production during the second half of the calendar year.

Post estimates that Colombian coffee production will increase to 10.8 million bags GBE in MY 2013/14, 8.5 percent higher than the previous year. Post forecasts production to increase further in MY 2014/15 to 11.9 million bags GBE — if the favorable weather conditions remain.

Around 300,000 hectares with rust resistant coffee varieties have been replanted since 2010 and near half of that area is currently in mature productive capacity. Although at a lower intensity, the coffee replanting program with rust-resistant varieties continues and will support further increases in production.

Since 2013, the weather patterns have returned to more normal conditions, stimulating the production recovery. Production has returned to historical levels of 10 million bags GBE going back to the 1960’s, but still below the 2008 peak year of 12.5 million bags GBE.

According National Center for Coffee Research (CENICAFE), climate change has initiated a trend in declining photoperiod, which has impacted flowering and stressed coffee trees, damaging the productive potential.

In addition, IDEAM has indicated the El Niño phenomenon is on the horizon and will create drought conditions towards second half of 2014, which could stem the ongoing production recovery and affect coffee quality. Drier weather conditions could provoke broca, or cherry borer, outbreaks, also impacting coffee quality and exportable supplies.

The rust resistant replanting efforts are now beginning to show results, benefitting further from more normal weather conditions. This recovery is evidenced by the increase in monthly harvest data year-on-year (y-o-y). Coffee production through March 2014 reached 6.0 million bags GBE, a 34 percent increase from the same period a year before.

In spite of the PIC subsidy in 2013, lower prices created challenges for coffee growers to meet debt burdens, thus reducing investments in fertilizers and pest controls. The lack of investments inputs could also have a negative impact on the productive potential of the replanted coffee in the near term.

There are two peak harvest periods during a calendar year of coffee production: the main harvest period from October to December, produces 60 to 70 percent of total production; and, the second harvesting period from April to June, or the “mitaca” crop, harvested mainly in the central coffee region of Colombia. FEDECAFE estimates that there are 553 thousand coffee farmers in Colombia, a figure currently in dispute with some speculation that there are actually about 300-400 thousand

Approximately 95 percent of Colombia’s coffee growers farm on less than 5 hectares of land. Small farmers with less than 5 hectares of land are responsible for approximately 69 percent of coffee production in Colombia.

From 2009-2011, excessive rains from the la Niña phenomenon negatively impacted production through creating ideal moisture conditions supporting the spread of rust.

The spread of coffee rust affected about 40 percent of the planted area from 2009 to 2011, but has since declined. A coffee replanting program that began in 2010 with the rust-resistant Castillo variety (a hybrid of domestic varieties and a variety native to East Timor), in addition to other methods of disease control and improved weather, appears to have managed and reduced the impact of coffee rust.

Colombian growers regularly replant on a rotating schedule across landholdings, removing older, less economically viable trees from production.

Not all replanting in recent years has been with the Castillo variety and farmers have expressed concerns with the Castillo’s productive efficiency, in terms of kilograms of green coffee per tree, and low cupping quality, a key factor for selling to the premium coffee markets.

Many farmers, as a result, continue to plant traditional varieties while applying other methods of disease control, such as the application of fungicides. As well, defensive replanting, such as creating an outer buffer of disease resistant varieties, with more traditional varieties within that buffer, is another method to minimize the impacts from rust. Regardless of the approach, attempts to control coffee rust have been effective.