Coffee growers in Central America will continue to pay a
heavy toll to the outbreak of coffee rust in 2014-15, to judge by forecasts for
output from El Salvador, Mexico and Costa Rica, where production will fall to a
Mexico, where the outbreak of the virulent fungus proved
relatively mild, will see some recovery in output, thanks to government-backed
efforts to control the disease, which causes defoliation, leading to yield declines
and, in extreme cases, the loss of trees.
But the revival will be limited to 100,000 bags, taking
output to 3.90m bags, US Department of Agriculture foreign staff said in their
first forecast for the harvest.
That will be, excluding the 2013-14 harvest, the weakest in
"Coffee production in Mexico has been affected by adverse
weather conditions – frosts, untimely rainfall, excess humidity—which have been
ideal for the expansion of coffee rust in many production areas," the USDA
'Possibility of a
In El Salvador, although output will rebound by 168,000
bags, that is from a 2013-14 figure which USDA staff downgrade to 507,000 bags –
the lowest in 80 years.
And an increase is only expected largely because 2014-15
will be an "on" year for production in the country which, like top coffee
producer Brazil, sees alternate higher and lower years of coffee output.
The forecast also makes no allowance for poor weather
stemming from the El Nino weather pattern which meteorologists see as likely
this year - with those in Australia this week rating the chances at more than
70% - and which is linked to dryness in many parts of Latin America.
"This [output] number could be lower since there is a
possibility of a drought due to the El Niño weather pattern and also a new
coffee leaf rust attack during the upcoming production cycle," USDA staff said.
'Cause for concern'
In Costa Rica, production is not expected to recover at all,
forecasting dropping a further 48,000 bags to 1.38m bags, which would be the
lowest since 1976-77.
The country has, like last year, seen a long dry season
followed by a relatively late and mild rainy season which, besides limiting the
moisture needed to transport fertilizer into trees, may affect flowering and
fruit formation – as in 2013.
This weather "is a cause for concern among producers", the
USDA staff said.
They added that rust "has not been overcome yet in some
areas of the country" and, indeed, Icafe, the Costa Rica Coffee Institute, has warned
that the weather conditions are favourable for the continued spread of the
The forecasts come at a time when market focus continues to
centre primarily on Brazil, which suffered extreme drought early in the year -
the impact of which investors are waiting to assess, with harvesting still in
its preliminary stages.
However, Central America is being watched with considerable
interest too, to assess how significantly its producers may be able to revive
output to help fill the void in supplies left by Brazil.
On estimates from USDA attaches, El Salvador's coffee
exports for 2013-14 will fall 74% to a historic low (ie since at least the 1950s) of 417,000 bags, while
Costa Rica's will drop in 2014-15 to a 39-year low of 1.14m bags.
Both countries on average have historically exported roughly
1.4m bags of coffee a year.