Hopes high for Brazil's 2018 coffee crop, even as exports falter


Cecafe underlined the strong prospects for this year’s Brazilian coffee harvest, even as it unveiled an unusually sluggish start to 2018 for exports, and forecast a further slowdown.

The Brazilian coffee exporters’ group reported the country’s total coffee shipments last month at 2.49m bags, a drop of 5.9% year on year, and the weakest January result since 2012.

The decline, which reflected weaker volumes to all of the top-five buyers apart from Japan, had been “expected”, and extended a weak trend of volumes, said Nelson Carvalhaes, the Cecafe president.

Shipments were undermined by a rundown in inventories in Brazil, following a succession of disappointing harvests in particular of robusta beans, and a reluctance by growers to sell what stores they do have at current lowly values.

Indeed, he forecast a continuation of the trend, saying that “the pace will slow down until the entry of the new crop”, with harvest of Brazil’s 2018 crop to start in earnest in about four months’ time.

‘Rainfall has been high’

This harvest comes “will bring a better expectation” of supplies, Mr Carvalhaes said, underlining ideas of good growing conditions.

“Rainfall has been high, which favours production. If climatic factors stay that way, it will be very positive” for output prospects.

The comments are the latest in a series of upbeat assessments of prospects for the 2018 harvest, which is widely expected to set a record, and potentially break the 60m-bag mark for the first time.

On Friday, Cepea said that besides a boost from 2018 being an “on” year, in Brazil’s cycle of alternate higher and lower production years, “good weather conditions have helped the grain-filling process for both varieties, arabica and robusta”.

This “may allow a large crop this year”.

Dryness a threat yet

In the first fortnight of this month, “weather was favourable to the Brazilian arabica crops”, the research institute said, with cherry-filling “advancing without any problems in all regions surveyed”.

In Espirito Santo, the top robusta-growing state, Cepea said that “rains in early February brought some relief to coffee growers, who were concerned with the warm weather in January.

“Water reservoirs in that state have not reached safe levels yet,” after successive years of drought.

Indeed, dry weather could yet “limit the development” of the Espirito Santo robusta crop.

‘Restrained sellers’

Cepea also flagged the “slow pace” of Brazilian coffee shipments, and noted “restrained sellers, low supply in Brazil and the low interest of purchasers, who may wait for the beginning of the 2018-19 national crop to buy higher volumes”.

The Cecafe data showed Brazilian robusta exports particularly low last month, at 11,320 bags – well below the 344,794 bags recorded in January 2015, before drought set in to Espirito Santo.

Arabica exports, at 2.32m bags, were down 4.6% year on year.

That put total green coffee exports at 2.33m bags, a drop of 5.1% year on year.


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