Frost & Wind Worry Central Am. Coffee Growers

MEXICO CITY, Jan 11 (Reuters) – Unusually cold weather is
worrying coffee farmers in Mexico and Central America at the
peak of harvest season as ice on trees or heavy winds has
damaged coffee for export, regional producers said on Monday.
Recent freezing temperatures in Mexico’s coffee-growing
regions have affected at least 80,000 60-kg bags of coffee and
farmers are worried about future cold snaps, the national union
of coffee producers said.
Ice encased high-altitude coffee in the states of Hidalgo,
San Luis Potosi, Puebla and Veracruz for six hours over the
weekend, the head of the independent union said. This damaged
some beans and will prevent some cherries from maturing.
The coffee harvest runs from October to around March, and
December and January are peak picking months.
“The damage to quality in these areas could be almost 80
percent,” Gabriel Barreda told Reuters. He said the affected
areas had about 150,000 bags of coffee left to harvest for the
2009/10 season.
Growers in other coffee-producing states could find more
defects in their coffee if the bad weather continues, he said.
The union, which groups more than 220,000 growers around
the country, has predicted an overall drop in the 2009/10
coffee harvest as aging trees produce less.
Barreda said on Monday that this season’s production could
fall 33 percent to 3.45 million 60-kg bags.
In the 2008/09 coffee year, Mexico produced 4.6 million
60-kg bags of coffee.
Separately, Mexico’s national coffee association, Amecafe,
which is linked to the government, said in December it saw
production remaining steady in 2009/10.

The cold weather hitting Mexico and Central America is part
of the same cold front affecting the United States, which is
forecast to abate later this week.
Growers in El Salvador and Costa Rica were still assessing
potential damage from a weekend of high winds that may have
knocked cherries off trees in some places.
While they had “not yet” found any damage to their crops,
some of Costa Rica’s largest coffee producers said they were
closely monitoring conditions after winds as strong as 38 mph
(60 kph) downed trees and caused electrical outages.
“We hope that it’s over soon,” Jose Angel Vazquez, general
manager of Coopalmares, which sells its coffee to Starbucks
and Farmer Bros Co. told Reuters.
Costa Rica, known for its top-quality beans, is expecting a
larger harvest in 2009/10 compared with the previous cycle.
Agronomists at El Salvador’s national coffee institute were
in the fields on Monday evaluating the scale of the damage from
the weekend cold snap and sent out a letter to farmers last
Friday advising them to speed up the harvest.

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