The coffee industry support outlined by Brazil's government may mop up high-quality beans for which supplies are already relatively tight, and potentially exclude producers with lower-quality supplies.
Brazilian growers are awaiting details of the operation of a government programme which will, through options, guarantee 343 reais ($149) per 60-kilogramme bag of coffee to growers, many of whom face financial hardship because of depressed market prices.
Conab, the Brazilian crop bureau, is expected this week to unveil the so-called "edital" outlining the small print of the options.
However, to judge by history, the programme may, initially, "favour only producers who have high-quality product, because quality standards required by governments are usually high", said Cepea, the research centre linked to Sao Paulo University.
The details of the edital will be "crucial" in determining which producers take part in the programme, in which the government is to auction off options maturing in March, Cepea said.
Besides considering the costs of preparing coffee to meet options specifications, producers will also need to factor in the price of the options the contracts themselves.
"The higher the interest in the auctions, the higher that price will be, making sales to the government viable only for those who were able to harvest high-quality product," the research centre said.
Assuming prices are not above the strike price of 343 reais per bag at the March maturity date, the coffee delivered to the government will be for "the most part high-quality coffee beans, reducing the availability in the domestic market".
Separately, Brazil's Conselho Nacional do Café producers' group said it believed that government officials would launch a programme offering premium prices for better coffees, with a discount for lower grades, a measure it termed "positive since it allows participation by a greater number of producers".
'Merchants are complaining'
Indeed, the amount of coffee counted as high quality extends to only 1-2% of the total crop, according to data from exchange operator BM&F Bovespa.
Already, there is a short of high quality, "fine-cup" beans, helping limit to 5-12 cents a pound their discount to New York futures, compared with 20 cents a pound for "good-cup" beans, according to coffee trader Flavour Coffee.
However, it is as yet unclear how much of this effect is down to producers withholding beans, or to a poor quality crop.
"One can say that there are no fine cups in the south of Minas Gerais, or at least they did not appear in the market," Flavour Coffee said.
Broker Thiago Cazarini said that it "can be true that producers are selling the worst lots first and saving the best for later or the overall quality of crop 2013-14 is low.
"Exporters are complaining about the quality being offered at the moment."