July 21 (National Post) -- SAO PAULO/NEW YORK - An unusual cold snap, with temperatures dropping to freezing levels in a matter of minutes, delivered a blow to the heart of Brazil's coffee belt, damaging trees and harming prospects for next year's crop, farmers said on Wednesday.
Agricultural products across the western hemisphere have been beset by unusually bad weather - be it floods or extreme drought - all season. Brazil is the world's largest coffee producer, as its climate is most conducive for production of the beans. Coffee prices surged nearly 14% in response to the frosts, nearing four-and-a-half year highs.
The sudden frost happened in the morning of July 20. Farmers, brokers and analysts were assessing their crops on Wednesday after reports that the cold snap was much stronger than expected.
"I've never seen something like that. We knew it would be cold, we were monitoring, but temperatures suddenly went several degrees down when it was already early morning," said Mario Alvarenga, a coffee producer with two farms in the southern part of Minas Gerais, Brazil's largest producing state.
Farmers shared pictures of their crops, where large black areas were visible in places where they should see dark green spots marking coffee trees.
"I will probably have to take out some 80,000 trees, they are burned all the way to the bottom," said Airton Gonçalves, who farms 100 hectares of coffee in Patrocinio, in the Cerrado region of Minas Gerais.
"I was going to the farm yesterday and a sensor in the truck started to alert me about ice in the road. I thought the system had gone crazy. But when I got to the farm, it was covered in ice, the roofs, the crops."
According to reports, the frost hit areas all the way from the south to the central parts of Minas Gerais.
Joel de Souza Borges, a coffee broker in Patrocinio, believes that around 50% of farms in the Cerrado region were hit. He said this year's production will not be harmed, since most areas were already harvested, but production in 2022 is a question mark.
"In some cases the trees recover, you need to cut down some of the branches. In other cases, you have to take the tree out and replant," he said.
Farmer Gonçalves estimates his production in 2022 will fall from 5,500 bags to around 1,500 bags.
Coffee Prices Hit Highest Since 2018 -- Market Talk
(Dow Jones) -- 1123 ET - Coffee futures trading on the Intercontinental Exchange are at their highest levels since January 2018, with the most-active contract up 4.7% to $1.7455 per pound Wednesday. Coffee futures have gotten their lift from supply constraints in Brazil due to weather. "Above all, it has been the risk of frost in Brazil that has repeatedly fueled price fantasies since June," says Commerzbank. "Key growing areas had been spared frost in June, but now temperatures as low as -4degC were reported yesterday in the southern part of Minas Gerais, the most important Arabica growing state."
BRAZIL CROP WEATHER: Temperatures Are Warming Up After Frost
By Fabiana Batista and Marvin G. Perez
No frost was registered in major producing areas of Center-South on Wednesday, after hitting areas of corn, coffee, sugar-cane and orange crops in Parana, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais in the previous day, Marco Antonio dos Santos, a meteorologist at Rural Clima in Valinhos said by message.
The damage was very significant in coffee and in some orange groves on Tuesday, he said
“The freeze we saw was the most widespread we’ve seen in many, many years” and temperatures were low enough for frost and freezes to occur in many areas of south Minas Gerais, while more sporadic in Parana and Sao Paulo, said Drew Lerner, the president of World Weather Inc.
NOTE: Wild Weather in Biggest Coffee Exporter Sparks Price Surge
Dry conditions will prevail in most of Center-South in the coming days: Rural Clima
By July 25 and 26, a new cold front will bring widespread rains benefiting crops in the South region and in some areas of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais
Between July 28 and 30, a new cold front brings freezing temperatures to Parana, Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina: Rural Clima
So far, models indicate it will solely affect the South region, dos Santos said
“While another cold front may bring temperatures down late next week, it will be nothing like what we saw that last couple of days”: Lerner
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