DECEMBER 23, 2020
Brazil's coffee harvest will have a "big break" in 2021, says J Ganes after expedition
By Roberto Samora
SÃO PAULO (Reuters) - Renowned soft commodities specialist Judith Ganes came to Brazil this month in search of a "great picture" of the next coffee harvest for the world's largest producer and exporter, and the scenario found indicates significant losses that could reach 50% in many areas, she said.
Coffee plantation in Guaxupé, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais REUTERS/Jose Roberto Gomes
If the prolonged drought allowed the country to harvest one of the best quality crops in 2020, on the other hand it has depleted the coffee plants for the 2021 cycle, according to alerts from experts and entities linked to producers made some time ago.
But, "faced with so much conflicting information, I decided to come to Brazil to see the situation myself," said North American by phone, already back to Panama after a seven-day technical expedition through the main Arabica producing regions of Minas Gerais and Sao Paulo.
"Most of the time I can say I couldn't believe how bad the crops are, and I came to Brazil thinking it could be the opposite," Judith, president of JGanes Consulting, told Reuters.
She noted that it is not yet possible to estimate the size of Brazil's arabica crop failure, whose harvest normally starts only in May. But she said she saw some areas in such a bad situation that they will not produce anything.
"There will be a big break, I saw areas with 100% loss, 50% loss, 30% loss," said the expert, who has been working for 37 years as a consultant.
Brazil's coffee harvest in 2020 reached a record 63 million 60-kg bags (considering Arabica and Robusta), according to the state-owned Companhia Nacional de Abastecimento (Conab), or nearly 70 million bags, according to analysts such as Safras & Mercado -- the government's figures on coffee generally fall short of what the market sees.
This record was possible with a strong increase in Arabica production, which was in the year of high productivity and in 2021 will face the low of the biennial cycle. But the drought is expected to accentuate the drop for the biennial.
This is because, according to the consultant, "it was impossible to find the perfect crop" during her trip, which passed through areas of Varginha (MG) and Três Pontas (MG), besides Mogiana and Cerrado de Minas.
"I thought they were exaggerating (in the comments on losses), but this property with coffee in good condition does not exist," she explained.
According to the specialist, the irrigated areas, those pruned last year and those with younger feet are in better conditions, but still will have losses.
"I noticed that the newer areas are in better conditions, but even these will suffer breaks that can vary from 10 to 30%", she said.
"Even the coffee feet of irrigated areas seem stressed, they don't look healthy as they should be", he concluded, after talking with agronomists and producers, who said that there wasn't enough water to irrigate the crops, due to the effects of dry weather.
According to her, the irrigated areas could have a 10% to 20% drop in productive potential.
The consulter reported yet that some areas, with flowers in September followed by a hydric stress, that had abortions of flowers and fruits, and that there are signs that they were "burned" by the intense heat.
"In Lower Mogiana many flowers fell, and in Upper Mogiana I noticed yellow grains, ripening before the time," she said, pointing out that these may fall before the harvest. This situation was also seen in the Cerrado of Minas Gerais.
She said that if the rains continue to be regular they can ease the problem, but not reverse losses already recorded. In addition, wetter conditions from now on may be important to strengthen crops for the 2022 harvest.
"It would be important to stop the early ripening and abortion of the fruits. But if a new heat wave comes or a harsh summer, we may have more problems".
Asked about the impact on the global market, she said that other factors can act, such as the final stocks of the great harvest in Brazil in 2020, in addition to production in other countries and demand in times of Covid-19.
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