Colombia’s National Federation of Coffee Growers recently published its revised forecast for the 2021/2022 harvest. The organisation predicts that Colombian coffee production will fall to an eight-year low this year. An industry leader told Reuters that a decline in plantation renovation and fertiliser use poses problems for future harvests.

The report shows a fall of 10% to 8.2 million 60-kg bags from more than 9 million bags a year earlier in the period January-September. In September 2022 alone, the production fell by 31% to 834,000 60-kg bags compared to over 1.2 million bags produced in the same month of 2021.

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Consequently, exports of Colombian coffee have also declined, by 6% in the January-September period and by 25% in September 2022. In the last 12 months, coffee exports declined by 7% to 11.9 million 60-kg bags from 12.8 million bags.

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Several factors have negatively affected production, most notably excessive rain. According to the Colombian Institute of Meteorology, Colombia has received 20-40% more rainfall than average. Climate change has affected flowering, and a local agronomist said that the yield of the second harvest could be 50% lower compared to other harvests.

Roberto Vélez, CEO of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, said in an interview on Wednesday night that the expected drop in the harvest, possibly the lowest since 2014, is due to heavy rains caused by the La Niña weather phenomenon as well as climate change.

In Colombia, we’ve now gone 26 months where the monthly rainfall has exceeded the historical average … that is accompanied by cloudiness and a lack of sun which decreases production.

Roberto Vélez, CEO, Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (source: Reuters)

In addition, the cost of fertiliser has skyrocketed as a result of the Russia-Ukraine War and transport bottlenecks. Colombia imports most of its fertiliser, but due to higher prices, producers have been using less of it, which hampers production.

Labour costs have also increased as the pandemic has made it more difficult to find workers. With the harvest expected to be smaller and more “spread out”, as an agronomist from the major coffee region of Quindío put it, it will be more difficult and therefore more expensive to pick the cherries. The average cost of coffee production rose by almost 45% last year due to these factors.

The upside of the rains is that quality is expected to be better as the rains have driven away the coffee berry borer, a pest that bores holes in the coffee beans and lays its eggs there. Clearly, this will drive up prices even more.

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