Colombia's coffee output resurgence has further to run


The revival in Colombia's coffee production, which has near-doubled in four years, is not over yet, an International Coffee Organization head said, foreseeing output could hit levels not seen in 25 years.

Colombian coffee output stands to top 14m bags for only the fourth time on record in 2015-16, assuming production growth maintains for September, the last month of the marketing year, the pace of growth achieved for the rest of the season.

"Production this year should be at the highest level in many years," Marcela Uruena, the ICO's head of operations, said, at the organisation's forum on coffee sector finance.

Colombia, the world's third-ranked coffee growing country, "has really recovered from the leaf rust crisis they had".

'Success story'

And the potential for recovery is not over yet, Ms Uruena said, noting that output this season had seen some setback from conditions caused by the El Nino weather pattern, and that the full benefit had yet to come through of a replanting drive early in the decade with trees resistant to the coffee rust fungus.

Indeed, the country looked on track in "years ahead" to raise output to 15m bags, a level breached only once before, in 1991-92, when output soared to a record 17.98m bags, according to data kept by Colombia's Fedecafe producers' group.

Terming Colombia's coffee production a "success story", Ms Uruena flagged the benefit of the replanting drive, which had stretched to 600,000 hectares out of the 900,000 hectares of coffee plantations in Colombia.

Ms Urena - formerly head of agricultural public policy for Colombia's government, and advisor to the Fedecafe chief executive – also stressed the benefit to growers of access to funds for replanting, and of the development of rust resistant trees specific even to different growing regions.

'Perfect storm'

Indeed, the coffee replantings had been undertaken with varieties developed from 25 years of research, said Juan Esteban Orduz, chief executive of Fedecafe's North American subsidiary, terming a "perfect storm" of factors behind the launch of the renovation drive.

Besides damage from an outbreak of the rust fungus, Colombian coffee production had been dented at the time by weather setbacks from La Nina, which tends to cause excessive rains in some parts of the country, and by low rates of fertilizer applications, in the face of weak bean prices.

Colombia's coffee output plunged by 30% in 2008-09 to 8.66m bags, before falling further to 7.65m bags in 2011-12 – the lowest in 36 years - as the replanting drive took plantations offline.


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