Polar air mass most intense since 2013; Sugar cane also hurt
Crop damage expected, future harvest output may be at risk
By Fabiana Batista
Cold weather slammed into Brazil’s main arabica-coffee regions over the weekend, damaging crops and threatening output.
The most intense polar air mass since 2013 brought frost to most of the nation’s coffee lowlands and affected sugar-cane plantations in the southern region of Mato Grosso do Sul and Sao Paulo state. This area of Brazil, the world’s top coffee producer and exporter, is known for the popular arabica bean which is the preferred variety of roasters such as Starbucks Corp.
Coffee futures in New York on Friday had fallen the most in two weeks as weather concerns eased. Temperatures in Minas Gerais were expected to stay warm enough over the weekend to avoid any potential damage.
Farmers and agronomists said Sunday they expect damage to coffee crops, though no immediate estimates are available.
“Trees in the lowlands were most affected in many regions of Minas Gerais” in the southwestern part of the country, said Regis Ricco Alves, a director at consulting company RR Consultoria Rural in Alfenas, Minas Gerais. “We will take more days, though, to have a more accurate impact estimate for the next crop.”
Although some trees that faced medium levels of damage may partially recover in the coming months, they “may not produce at their full potential in the next harvest,” Alves said.
Reports on the occurrence of frost varied. In Minas Gerais state, the nation’s meteorologist institute Inmet reported frost only in two municipalities -- in Machado and Lavras -- in the southern part of the state, with temperatures falling to near freezing levels on Sunday. However, leaves may have frozen in other areas, including in Sao Sebastiao do Paraiso, where temperatures slumped below freezing, according to Sao Paulo-based weather forecaster Somar Meteorologia.
In the neighboring Cerrado region, farmers reported losses after the temperature dipped to freezing levels, said Marcos Figueiredo, a 56-year-old coffee farmer in Araguari. The cold may have affected at least 20% of his 25-hectare (62-acre) farm, which is planted mostly in lowland fields, he said.
Coffee and sugar-cane plantations may have been affected in the north of Parana and in Sao Paulo, where Inmet reported that temperatures fell to near-freezing levels. Cane areas in the south of Mato Grosso do Sul were probably also affected by frost, Andressa Lorena, meteorologist at Somar, said by phone.