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Brazil downgrades coffee harvest, despite lifting robusta crop to record high


Brazil revealed its coffee farmers had set a record this year after all – in robusta production – but cut its forecast for bean output overall, thanks to a steep downgrade to the arabica harvest.


The official Conab bureau lifted by 590,000 bags to 14.52m bags its estimate for its Brazil’s 2019 robusta production - promoting the harvest to the largest ever, ahead of last year’s 14.17m-bag crop.


The upgrade reflected an improved forecast for yield, now seen, at 40.0 bags per hectare, beating last year’s result, and helped by an upgrade to expectations for the key growing state of Espirito Santo.


The bureau flagged “greater water availability in the soil” than in the state’s drought period of 2015-17, but highlighted nonetheless that, even with a robusta crop now expected at 10.32m bags, that the result “still falls short” of the Espirito Santo potential.


“High temperatures and lack of precipitation, especially between January and March, impacted” crop development, Conab said.


‘Significant water deficit’

By contrast, the bureau lowered its forecast for Brazil’s arabica output this year by 2.51m bags to 34.47m bags.


The decline from last year’s record 47.48m-bag crop reflects largely biennial effects, with Brazilian arabica plantations tending to follow a stronger harvest with a weaker one.


However, Conab highlighted too setbacks in the main arabica-growing state of Minas Gerais from dryness between December and February.


This brought a “significant water deficit that, together with high temperatures… impaired fruit filling”.


‘Significant losses’

For the Zona de Mata region in south eastern Minas Gerais, Conab highlighted setbacks including “strong” stress on trees “after two high-yielding crops”, and a shortage of fertilizers - with nutrients that were available seeing a “significant increase” in prices.


Furthermore, the bureau flagged the knock-on effects of a prolonged flowering phase, which “caused the uneven growth and maturation of the cherries and made it difficult to decide the best time to harvest,” with some crop still green, while other had gone over, “even on the same stem”.


Conab noted “reports of significant losses in the initially expected yield and quality of the harvested” beans, of which a “high percentage” were small, or malformed, meaning more needed to fill a bag.


“Usually, from seven to eight baskets of harvested fruits are used to make a processed coffee bag.


“However, with the lower yield and grain quality, in this crop, 10 baskets of fruits” were needed to fill a bag.


Year on year decline

The estimates combined took Brazil’s coffee harvest this year to 48.99m bags, a downgrade of nearly 1.0m bags from the previous forecast, in May.


A harvest at this level would rank as Brazil’s fifth largest even, and the second biggest for a so-called “off” year in production, behind the 49.15m bags achieved in 2013.


Last year’s harvest set the record, of 61.66m bags.

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