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Colombia's coffee output, exports to hit 25-year high

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Colombia’s recovery in coffee output, and exports, will progress faster than had been thought this season, US officials said – but on an assumption of “normal” weather, even as ideas of La Nina grow.


The US Department of Agriculture’s Bogota bureau pegged Colombia’s coffee output in 2017-18, on an October-to-September basis, at 14.7m bags, a 25-year high.


The figure was 100,000 bags above the USDA’s official estimate, and represents a near-doubling in output from a low 7.66m bags reached six seasons ago, when production was dented by a drive to replant with trees resistant to the rust fungus which had badly hurt the country’s productivity.


Indeed, the bureau’s output estimate reflects in part expectations of “more plants reaching their productive peak”.


More than 420,000 hectares of the 940,000 hectares of coffee area in Colombia has so far been replanted, with renovation continuing at an average pace of 84,000 hectares a year.


‘Too much rain’


However, the bureau’s estimate also factors in “projected normal weather conditions” for Colombia in 2017-18, an assessment which contrasts with concerns from some other commentators that a projected La Nina could bring extensive and damaging rainfall.


Last week, soft commodities analyst Judith Ganes-Chase, noting that La Nina “is becoming increasingly more likely, said that “this could bring too much rain to Colombian coffee areas.


“Colombia’s production view is now less certain.”


‘La Nina alert’


On Tuesday, Australia’s official meteorology bureau raised from 50% to 70%, “triple the normal likelihood”, its estimate of the probability of an imminent La Nina, on which it is now on “alert” status.


“The tropical Pacific is approaching La Niña thresholds,” the bureau said, with the weather pattern is typically associated with cooler than normal Pacific water temperatures.


Earlier this month, official US meteorologists raised their rating on La Nina to “watch” from “advisory”.


However, both US and Australian meteorologists forecast the event being short-lived.


Export prospects


The USDA bureau added that Colombian coffee exports in 2017-18 looked like reaching 13.59m bags, some 400,000 bags above the USDA’s official estimate, and also a 25-year high.


“Colombian coffee exports have been expanding significantly since 2013, reflecting the recovery in coffee production,” the bureau said, noting growth at both ends of the quality spectrum.


“Value added, specialty coffee now comprises close to 40% of Colombia’s total coffee exports.”


However, the bureau also flagged the boost to the, far smaller, shipments of lower quality coffee, including soluble, thanks to a move in May last year to lower a hurdle on export standards.

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