Expectations for Colombian Coffee Production This Year Lowered to 14.2 Million Bags Amid Heavy Rains
Colombia is expected to produce 14.2 million bags of coffee in the current season, a decline of around half a million bags from previous estimates, according to a recent report from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In December, the Washington agency predicted that Colombia would hit 14.7 million bags in this marketing season, which runs from October through September.
The main cause of the downward revision is the unseasonably high rains that have swelled rivers and caused issues for some producers. The resulting lack of sunshine slowed the ripening of many of the millions of coffee cherries growing across the Andean nation.
“Heavy rains and cloudiness reported at the beginning of 2018 in the coffee regions reduced prospects for Colombian production,” stated the USDA’s Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report.
The agency does expect this to be a temporary drop, however. The USDA continues to predict output of 14.5 million bags for 2018-19.
The report also noted that the vast majority of Colombian coffee continues to be exported. According to USDA estimates, the country will export 13.2 million bags this year, which is in line with the production decline represents a drop of 3.3% from last season.
The largest percentage will continue going to the United States. In value terms, the U.S. market receives 44% of the country’s beans, with the next three leading recipients — the European Union (25%), Japan (10%), and Canada (7%) — not even receiving that much combined.
Despite the annual production setback, the macro story for Colombian coffee production remains positive. “In the last decade, yields have increased nearly 30% due largely to higher plant density as well as a renovation program using rust-resistant varieties, which has reduced the average age of coffee trees from 15 to seven years,” wrote the USDA in a separate world coffee market report in December.
The small decrease, ultimately, does not represent a substantial decline compared to the major growth seen in recent years.
As the agency highlights, after seven straight years of production of at least 11 million bags, the 2008-09 season proved calamitous for growers. And that drop-off continued until production cratered below to below eight million bags in 2011-12.
The turnaround began the following year, however, and continued until the nation exceeded the 14 million threshold, which represents “record levels not seen since the early 1990s given the highly successful replanting program of coffee rust resistant varieties and good weather conditions.”
(Photo credit: Jared Wade)