Vietnam, the world’s largest producer of the Robusta variety used in instant coffee and espresso, expects a larger crop this season, increasing global supply and putting pressure on prices, which have fallen more than 10% in the past two months.

According to separate provincial estimates acquired by Bloomberg, the five provinces in the Central Highlands known as the country’s coffee belt, expect to produce more than 1.8 million tonnes of beans in the harvest that has already started, up from 1.76 million tonnes last year. The US Department of Agriculture estimates national production at 1.85 million tonnes.

I think 1.8 million tonnes would be the highest ever for a coffee crop in the Highlands. That’s what the nation as a whole used to produce.

Trinh Duc Minh, Head of the Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Association in Dak Lak province

More than 90% of the country’s crop is grown in the five Central Highlands provinces of Dak Lak, Lam Dong, Dak Nong, Gia Lai and Kon Tum. According to Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture, coffee is grown on just over 700,000 hectares nationwide, with a harvested area of 647,600 hectares.

All five provinces expect higher Robusta yields, with Lam Dong, the second-largest producer, recording the highest yields. Nguyen Van Son, the director of the agriculture department in the province, said the “high-yielding, pest-resistant varieties, increased production from replanted farms and the use of new technologies, such as automatic irrigation and fertilisation”, help with increased production.

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However, officials in Lam Dong, Dak Nong and Gia Lai provinces are concerned about a possible shortage of fruit pickers. The lack of local pickers could lead to a decline in the quality of beans, said the Dak Nong Provincial Department of Agriculture.

Some districts in Dak Nong started selective fruit harvesting last month after an early flowering due to rains that started in February. In Dak Lak and Lam Dong, selective harvesting started in October, and in Kon Tum, it will begin in early November. Growers in Gia Lai are expected to start harvesting next week.

Harvesting peaks in November and December and heavy rains predicted for those months could affect the progress and quality of the beans, provincial authorities said. According to Vietnam’s national weather agency, rainfall in the highlands next month could be twice the historical average and 40% higher in December.

Brazil, the world’s largest producer of the milder-tasting Arabica variety, has struggled with more than two years of frost and drought that have weakened the trees and led to a drop in production, which could take years to fully recover from. Increased production in Vietnam would benefit coffee drinkers.

Photo by RG72, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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