- Title: Colombian 2017 coffee output could hit 24-yr high-federation head
- Date: 19th January 2017
- Summary: BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF EXTERIOR NATIONAL COFFEE FEDERATION
- Embargoed: 2nd February 2017 17:36
- Keywords: Colombia coffee production
- Location: BOGOTA, PITALITO, HUILA AND ANTIOQUIA, COLOMBIA
- City: BOGOTA, PITALITO, HUILA AND ANTIOQUIA, COLOMBIA
- Country: Colombia
- Topics: Commodities Markets,Economic Events
- Reuters ID: LVA0015ZR06KJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Colombia could produce 14.5 million 60-kg (132-pound) bags of coffee this year, the highest output in more than two decades, the head of the country's growers' federation said on Thursday (January 19), as it pushes productivity and fertilisation improvements on farms.
Coffee growers in the Andean nation, the world's top producer of high-quality washed arabica, reached output of 14.2 million bags, the previous high, last year despite drought and a truckers strike that stymied exports. If the country reaches output of 14.5 million 60-kg bags it would be the highest in 24 years.
Velez said growers are worried about how recent heavy rains may affect their crop, but the federation expects sunnier weather in the coming months.
"With regards to production, the numbers should not differ very much from the figures of (coffee) collection in 2016. At the start of the year, we were a little worried as there was more rain than usual, but we hope that the weather becomes more temperate, and that we get a good crop from October onwards," said Velez at an interview in his Bogota office.
"We have some coffee plantations which will be in better condition. I say, once again, thinking on the volume we will collect, we will either have a very similar number, or a higher number, I do not dismiss the possibility of our reaching 14.5 (million) bags or a little bit more," Velez added.
Productivity is the primary challenge for farmers, Velez said. Colombia had an output of 18 bags per hectare (2.47 acres) in 2016, but if growers increase tree density, that figure could go up to 21 bags per hectare and increase overall production to some 16 or 17 million bags a year, he said.
Brazil, the world's top coffee producer by volume, has an average output of 27 bags per hectare, while No. 2 producer Vietnam reaches 35 bags per hectare, he said.
Growers will need to plant more densely, raising the average number of trees per hectare from 5,000 to between 5,500 and 6,000, he added.
The federation is also urging farmers to use more fertiliser to help trees flower better, but many struggle to come up with the cash for large one-time purchases of the product, even as prices have gone down.
"We Colombian coffee producers have to begin to fertilise again. Fertilisation is very poor in Colombia in comparison to Brazil or Vietnam. In Brazil, more than 1000 kilogrammes is applied per hectare (2205 pounds per 2.5 acres), we are at 350 (kilogrammes) (772 pounds), we are at one third. So we have to give the signal to producers once again that we have taken up the issue of fertilisation again," said Velez.
The government has said a peace deal with Marxist rebels, passed by Congress late last year, could help increase output to 20 million bags by 2020.
With a new peace, growers may be able to expand into previously violent areas, Velez said.
"There are other areas in Colombia which could become part of the coffee sector, areas traditionally where there was violence. It is not just about silencing the guns, we have to give these areas and populations some form of sustenance, an economic means by which to continue advancing, one has to bring prosperity, you can't come offering a few pesos to end the war, prosperity comes with the construction of sustainable economic models in these areas," said Velez.
Possible crop shortages in Brazil may push coffee prices to $1.40 to $1.70 a pound in 2017, Velez added.
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