Coffee futures revive as Citi cuts Brazil estimate

Arabica coffee futures recouped early losses as Citigroup cut its forecast for Brazilian coffee harvest, undercutting Volcafe's estimate earlier this week which sent futures soaring 7%.

Arabica coffee futures for July delivery, which fell 3.3% earlier to 206.85 cents a pound, recovered to stand 0.3% lower at 213.40 cents in New York at 12:30 local time (17:30 UK time).

The recovery followed the announcement by Citigroup that it had cut by 3.25m bags, to 44.25m bags, its forecast for this year's overall Brazilian coffee harvest, which many had seen approaching 60m bags before drought struck main growing areas from December to February.

The figure is below the 45.5m-bag estimate released by coffee merchant Volcafe on Tuesday which sent arabica futures soaring to a two-year high.

"I am probably the smallest number on the Street," said Citigroup futures specialist Sterling Smith although, outside the financial community, a study commission by Brazil's Conselho Nacional do Café producers' group two weeks ago estimated the country's coffee production at 40.1m-43.3m bags.

'Smaller crop than anticipated'

Mr Smith said that estimating the size of Brazil's coffee crop was unusually difficult this year because of the lack of precedents for drought early in the calendar year.

"Unusual circumstances this year are making estimating the crop much more difficult," meaning that Thursday's estimates "will get revised".

However, he told "Everything I am getting on the ground indicates a smaller crop than anticipated previously, even with the drought."

The figure also takes into account the dent to production from heavy tree prunings, which farmers undertook earlier in the season, when prices fell close to 100 cents a pound in New York.

Pruning, while reducing short-term harvest prospects, boost longer-term production.

El Niño worries

Mr Smith added that his Brazilian coffee included a relatively downbeat estimate for the robusta coffee harvest, which Volcafe pegged at 17.1m bags.

And he flagged the threat too of setbacks from the El Nino weather pattern, which is associated with strong rains in much of central Brazil, and which meteorologists have placed as an increasing possibility this year.

"El Niño worries are back in the conversation as that would hamper harvest efforts and further damage quality," he said.

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