The International Coffee Organization nudged higher its
estimate for world coffee output even as it cautioned over the potential for heavy
losses, and "serious long-term implications", caused by disease in Central
The intergovernmental group said that was "currently"
estimating world coffee output in 2012-13 at 144.5m bags, up from an estimate
of 144.06m tonnes last month, and representing a rise of 7.3% year on year.
And it identified a head start for 2013-14, in saying that "plentiful
showers" in Brazilian coffee-growing regions last month "bode well" for the
next harvest, which officials at the Conab crop bureau have pegged at 47m-50.2m
That would be a record for what is an "off" year in Brazil's
cycle of higher and lower producing years, although the peaks and troughs in
the top coffee-producing nation "seem to be converging", said the ICO, with the
downturn in 2013-14 seen at 4.4%.
The off year decade ago saw coffee output slump by 47%, with
change in dynamics since then attributed largely to improved husbandry, in
areas including pruning, irrigation and fertilizers.
However, this upbeat picture contrasted with the
difficulties facing growers in Central America, where coffee leaf rust, caused
by the roya fungus, which can cause severe defoliation and yield losses, had "now
been reported in all major coffee-producing countries".
"Authorities in Costa Rica have declared a state of emergency in
order to tackle the spread of the fungus," the ICO said.
"In Guatemala and El Salvador, there are reports that rust
could have affected 40‐50% of all coffee plants… while Honduras has declared a
phytosanitary emergency," and outbreaks have been reported in Mexico too.
"This outbreak could have serious long‐term implications for
the production of washed arabicas in Central America, with the region
potentially loosing around 2.5m-3m bags of coffee," the organisation said.
"However, it is too early to provide an exact breakdown."
Central America, including Mexico, was responsible for 24%
of arabica output in 2011-12, and had been expected to produce 22% of the world
crop in 2012-13.
Roya fungus is known for its virulence - an outbreak in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, in 1869 prompted the country to switch from growing coffee to planting tea - although resistant strains are now being developed, and planted in Colombia, although at the price of taking
Last week, the Organization of Central American Coffee
Exporters, Orceca, forecast that coffee leaf rust will cut the Central American
coffee harvest by some 20%.
Orceca estimated losses in Nicaragua at 600,000 quintals,
equivalent to about 460,000 60 kilogramme bags.
For Guatemala, losses were pegged at 650 thousand quintals
(about 500,000 bags), for El Salvador 400,000 quintals (307,000 bags) and
Honduras 1.8m quintals (1.38m bags).
For Costa Rica, losses were estimated at 200,000 quintals
(153,000 bags) and Panama 60,000 quintals (46,000 bags).