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COFFEE OFF TO GOOD START IN BRAZIL’S MINAS HILLS

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 14, 2008

Friday November 14 2008

Reuters

by Peter Murphy

POÇOS DE CALDAS, Brazil, Nov 14 (Reuters) – The preparatory stages of the next coffee harvest are Coffee - Robusta flowersoff to a near textbook start in Brazil’s mountainous Poços de Caldas region with timely rains and regular flowering, farmers and buyers said.

The area, which is 1,600 meters above sea level in Minas Gerais, Brazil’s biggest coffee state, turns out around 120,000 60-kg bags per year. Early signs indicate the next harvest will be typical of a lower-output year that follows a big crop like the one just harvested.

“Rains caused very good flowering on some farms. Next year the harvest should start in May instead of July like this year so it will supply the market a bit earlier,” said Luis Alfredo de Almeida, director of Café Poços, a cooperative of 565 growers.

The importance of timely rainfall was seldom clearer than a year ago when a drought reduced what would have been an even bigger crop than the large one harvested and delayed its development by four to six weeks depending on the region.

Rains which arrived around the right time this year caught some farmers harvesting later than usual because of the delay, making it difficult to dry the coffee and preserve quality. A local agronomist said 5 percent of the 2008/09 crop had still to be gathered here.

“It’s better than last year when the dry weather was very long,” said Sandro Dias, manager at a regional office of Cooxupe co-op. “Production will be down because of the biennality of seasons. Everything is quite normal and there is nothing atypical,” he said.

Private weather forecaster Somar has reported good levels of rainfall in the past fortnight and these have been fanning out to some important coffee areas which had stayed worryingly dry. Heavy showers poured down around here most of Thursday night.

PRUNING

After a strong harvest whose final output has yet to be calculated but is estimated at 45 million to 50 million or more 60-kg bags, many farmers have been heavily pruning some of their trees in order to reap higher yields later on.

Last year’s harvest, a lower output year in the biennial cycle of larger and smaller crops, produced about 38 million bags. The International Coffee Organization this week said it foresaw supplies falling below demand in 2009/10, making a good harvest in the world’s top grower all the more critical.

Trees whose branches have been pruned back to near the trunk will produce again during the larger harvest expected the year after next – the 2010/11 season – while some of the trees were reduced to mere stumps to rejuvenate them.

They would not produce fruit again for five or six years.

“We’re pruning to get the trees to produce more. We’re pruning all around here. They will produce well in two years time,” said farm manager Celso Dos Santos as he was followed around the edge of 60 hectare plantation where he showed a sample of now thin-looking trimmed plants.

In the yard, shells that encase the coffee bean and which are stripped off after harvesting lay in a heap decomposing and would be mixed with fertilizer, dos Santos said, to reduce expenditure on chemical inputs which have roughly doubled in price in the last year.

No flowers were visible on coffee trees on plantations visited by Reuters, only the tiny buds, known locally as “chumbinhos” which remain after the flower wilts and develop into coffee cherries. Trees looked healthy with dark green foliage.

The first official crop harvest is due in early December. Growers all over the agricultural power house producing coffee or other crops are lamenting the doubling in fertilizer prices in the last year – and many say the cost is forcing them to skimp on it.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE GUARDIAN’ (UK)

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