Colombia May Struggle to Meet Coffee Target

Bogota, Dec 21 – Colombia will likely produce one of its smallest coffee crops in 35 years, with some growers expecting production to fall nearly 30 percent from last year to no more than 8.0 million 60-kg bags in 2009.

The coffee growers’s federation in the world’s No. 3 coffee exporter has said coffee production will recover next year to 11 million bags as a result of more favorable weather conditions, a crop rejuvenation program bringing more trees into production and renewed fertilization.

Colombia, the world largest producer of top-quality of arabica beans, is struggling as the harvest has shown little sign of recovery in the last months of the year. Intense rains in 2008 and a coffee crop rejuvenation program took some fields out of production.

The coffee growers’s federation recently lowered its output target to around 8.3 million sacks in its fifth downward revision, producers said.

The Andean country produced 6.99 million bags in the first 11 months of the year, according to coffee federation.

In November output was 760,000 bags, down 19 percent from the same month a year earlier. November output marks the 19th consecutive monthly fall in production from year-earlier levels, according to federation.

But registering an output of 1.31 million bags in December to meet the target will be “simply impossible,” said Hector Falla, who represents coffee producers for the southeastern province of Huila.

“The country’s coffee production could be below 8 million bags. Output in December is seen as diminished as we have seen production throughout the year,” Falla said.

Huila accounts for 11 percent of the country’s total output and is the fourth heaviest-weighted province in terms of production.Colombia’s 2008 coffee output was 11.4 million bags and 12.6 million bags in 2007.

Javier Bohorquez, who represents coffee producers for the central province of Cundinamarca, said production will pick up in December propelled by increasing output in the coffee-rich central production area known as the “Eje Cafetero” but the recovery will not be enough to reach the annual target.

Bohorquez estimates production in the last month of the year at 1 million bags, which would bring the total output ending at around 7.99 million bags.

Lower rainfall starting in April has led to an “excellent” flowering of coffee plants, he said.

“Unfortunately, the sharpest increase of production will be seen in the first months of next year,” Bohorquez said

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