Coffee farmers in C America get double consolation

Coffee growers in Central America had the dual consolation of a downgrade to the estimate for their losses to the roya fungus, and finding that their crop has become the most expensive of the major grades too.

Promecafe, the Central American coffee organisation, has cut to 1.76m bags its forecast for the region's losses in 2013-14 to the fungus which causes coffee rust, the International Coffee Organization said.

That represents a decline of 135,000 bags on losses of 1.89m bags estimates for 2012-13.

Promecafe, which was created in 1979 to tackle disease threats to coffee output, in June last year had forecast last season's losses at 2.7m bags, and said that the 2013-14 impact could be considerably higher.

Central America produced 15.8m bags of coffee in 2011-12, the last season before rust took hold.

Diverging fortunes

The ICO also revealed that the beans produced in Central America, classified as "other milds", had become the most expensive of the major grades, overtaking values of Colombian milds for the first time in nearly nine years.

From a discount of some 13 cents a pound in February last year, other milds have taken a premium which averaged 1.47 cents a pound last month, a factor reflecting the differing production fortunes of Colombia, where trees from a replanting programme are maturing, and Central America.

And the price reversal, driven by a 31% jump to 173.64 cents a pound in the average price of other milds last month, is expected to stay, despite being historically unusual.

"Production in Colombia is expected to increase further going forward," ICO economist Thomas Copple told

"For Central America, it looks like production is going to stay low for a while."

Too much rain, too little

The ICO remained downbeat over prospects for world output in 2013-14 despite Colombia's recovery and the lowered estimate for Central America's setback, highlighting the impact of downpours in Mexico as well as drought in Brazil.

Amecafe, Mexico's national coffee association, had signalled that output "might be significantly lower than 2012-13, as heavy rains exacerbate the spread of coffee leaf rust", the ICO said.

On Brazil, the organisation highlighted that in the south west of Brazil, the top producing state, the rainfall deficit in January and February approached 500mm, "and it is considered unlikely that there has been any comparably severe event since at least 1950". 

The ICO restated a forecast that global 2014-15 coffee production "is now likely heading towards a deficit compared to demand".

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