Colombia Sees Specialty Coffee Exports Flat in 2009

Bogota, Nov 20 – Colombian exports of specialty coffee are expected to be flat in 2009 as international buyers were reluctant to purchase the beans due to high international prices, the country’s coffee federation said on Friday.

Heavy rains earlier this year and a crop renovation program that temporarily took some fields out of use also reduced output of specialty beans, helping to cause a spike in prices for Colombian coffee.

Shipments of the specialty coffee from the coffee federation’s growers are expected to total 1.05 million 60-kg bags this year unchanged from last year, said Rodrigo Calderon, director of specialty coffees.

“It was very difficult to increase exports and production of specialty coffees this year because international buyers abstained from buying the coffee due to really high international prices,” Calderon said.

The federation accounts for 65 percent of the country’s total exports of specialty coffees.

Buyers pay as much as $1.83 per lb for Colombian specialty coffee compared with the $1.68 paid for Colombia green beans, said Jose Fernando Munoz at Industria Cafetera La Meseta, which plans to export 150,000 bags this year.

Colombia is the world’s third largest coffee producer after Brazil and Vietnam. Its coffee is prized for its intensely aromatic taste without bitterness and is very popular in the United States, Germany, Switzerland and Japan.

But poor weather conditions and coffee-tree replanting programs forced the federation to reduce the country’s total output forecast to 8.3 million 60-kg bags for this year, down from an earlier estimate of 9.3 million bags.

INTEREST IN SPECIALTIES

Despite flat specialty coffee exports this year, international roasters are still keen on Colombia’s offer.

Italy’s top coffee roaster, illycaffe, on Wednesday awarded a small group of coffee growers the prize for the country’s best beans, allowing 150 farmers from the province of Casanare to sell their product to the company.

The winning lot consisted of 25,000 kg of specialty coffee produced in the municipality of Tamara. Illycaffe will pay producers from this province about $1.83 per lb, said Pedro Leal, who represents coffee producers from Casanare.

Leal estimated coffee producers could sell illycaffe 100,000 kg of coffee next year.

Illycaffe selected Casanare’s coffee because it is produced with high biological diversity and organic fertilization.

“As a result of all those factors, the coffee has a discreet bitterness and a soft aroma. It is very complete,” Luca Turello, an illycaffe Latin America buyer told Reuters.

Illycaffe has been buying 10,000 70-kg bags of premium Colombian coffee per year from the provinces of Norte de Santander, Huila, Cauca, Tolima, Narino and now Casanare to produce arabica espresso coffee.

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