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Undercaffeinated - coffee shipments expected to show shortfall

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Coffee exports for the 2017-18 marketing year have got off to a slow start – at least, that is what imminent data from the International Coffee Organization are likely to show.


Shipments from each of the top four producing countries - Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia and Indonesia - are provisionally seen lower in October, the first month of the new season.


Last season was a record year for coffee exports, according to ICO data, with shipments reaching 122.5m bags.


But 2017-18 will do well to keep pace.


‘Logistical constraints’


Local data show that exports from top producer Brazil dropped to 2.7m bags in October, the lowest amount for that month since 2010.


This is down 18.3% on last year’s 3.4m-bag figure.


US Department of Agriculture officials in Sao Paulo have already cut their forecast for yearly exports to 30.4m bags in 2017-18, which would be a six-year low.


Output this crop year, on the July-to-June year used in Brazil, is estimated at 51.2m bags by the USDA, 8.7% below last year’s volume, in a decline seen as reflecting logistical constraints that have hampered shipments from Santos port.


Rain delays harvest in Vietnam


In Vietnam, the second-ranked coffee growing country, coffee exports in October were 22.1% lower than last year, customs data show.


Last year, shipments from Vietnam were heavily front-loaded towards the beginning of the year whereas this year heavy rains have delayed the harvest.


Expectations for the crop this year are positive, with the USDA expecting a 1.9m-bag increase to 28.6m bags in 2017-18 production.


‘Substantial reduction’


It’s early days too in Colombia, the third-ranked coffee producing country, and second biggest grower of arabica beans.


But there are already concerns over the start of the 2017-18 crop as bad weather affects the flower development.


On Tuesday, national growers federation head Roberto Velez warned of "a substantial reduction in the harvest in coffee areas for October to December".


Colombian exports were 6% lower than last year in October, although monthly production was down 23%.


Earlier this month, USDA officials in Bogota forecast a slight increase in Colombia’s output in 2017-18 to 14.7m bags, "due to projected normal weather conditions and more plants reaching their productive peak".


‘Exports seem to have peaked’


Meanwhile in Indonesia, seven months into the crop year (April - March) and exports seem to have peaked, with both September and October showing lower volumes.


Robusta exports from the port of Lampung in Sumatra dropped 71% in October year-on-year, according to local government data.


This uncertainty over supply is starting to be reflected in prices.


Bearish for most of the year, arabica futures prices on the New York exchange have stabilised in November and even slightly rallied.


With most market analysts expecting a world coffee production deficit in 2017-18, the pressure is on for Brazil to deliver a record crop in 2018, as well as for alternative origins like Honduras, India and Uganda to pick up some of the slack.

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