(Adds quote, details from Somar, Cooxupé)
By Roberto Samora and Reese Ewing
SAO PAULO Feb 13 Forecasters say widespread
rains will finally enter the southernmost part of Brazil's
coffee belt on Thursday evening, breaking a six-week dry spell,
but the crop may already have suffered losses of up to 30
With rains having already begun in the southern grain-
producing state of Rio Grande do Sul, to the south of Brazil's
coffee belt, coffee futures prices slid in mid-day trade
by nearly 2 percent. After traders first caught wind of
potential damages from the drought in late January, prices had
jumped 23 percent through Wednesday.
Brazil is the world's largest producer of coffee, with its
naturally cured arabica beans making up the backbone of most
major commercial blends.
Somar meteorologist Graziela Gonçalves said rains were due
to pass slowly through the heart of the coffee belt in Minas
Gerais state bringing "significant rainfall" Feb. 15-17.
A report on rainfall volumes published Thursday afternoon by
Somar showed light rains had already started to fall in northern
Parana and southern Sao Paulo states, as the cold front pushed
its way north, deeper into the coffee belt.
Over the past six weeks only trace amounts of isolated
rainfall sprinkled the coffee belt, which had clearly caused
losses to the crop currently maturing on trees and due to start
harvest in May.
Once rains establish themselves in the southern segment of
the coffee belt, they will move into the main coffee growing
areas, Gonçalves said.
Rainfall will intensify this weekend, leaving accumulations
of 28-34 millimeters (1.1-1.3 inches) in the Mogiana, Cerrado
and South Minas regions, which account for close to 40 percent
of Brazil's coffee crop.
(For a table of rainfall totals over the coffee belt in the
past few months, click )
"GUARANTEE LOSSES AROUND 30 PERCENT"
Carlos Paulino da Costa, president of Cooxupé, the world's
largest coffee cooperative, told Reuters by phone from a coffee
trade fair that 30 percent of the coffee in the region in which
the group is active had been lost.
Cooxupé, which is in the heart of Brazil's Minas Gerais, had
forecast a crop of 10 million 60-kg bags in the area around the
cooperative before the drought hit. Minas Gerais accounts for 50
percent of the national crop.
"I guarantee that the losses are around 30 percent" said da
Costa. "If it rains, losses will stop (growing), if not they
will continue growing," he said.
The region in which Cooxupé is active accounts for about
one-fifth of the national crop.
Brazil's southeast just completed one of the warmest and
driest Januaries on record, according to Somar. And coffee,
sugar and orange juice futures prices have been rising in
response to concerns of losses in yields from the dry weather.
Da Costa said many beans would not grow to their full size
and thus would bring down yields. But that was not the only
"Look at the coffee fruit and it looks really good, but look
inside it and it's dry. This is the greater loss. It will not
come back (with the rains)," da Costa said.
(Writing by Reese Ewing; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)