UPDATE 1-Brazil sees 2020 coffee crop at 61.62 mln bags, below 2018 record

(Includes details of projections, comments from Conab, file photos available)

SAO PAULO, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Brazilian coffee farmers are seen producing 61.62 million bags of coffee in 2020, a sharp increase from the previous year but slightly shy of the record seen in 2018, the government’s agricultural statistics agency Conab said on Tuesday.

Last year’s production was seen by the agency at 49.3 million bags, while the record in 2018 was estimated at 61.66 million bags. Conab’s previous estimate for the 2020 crop, released in January, was in a range between 57.15 and 62.02 million bags.

Brazil’s coffee area alternates years of high and low production, a characteristic of arabica coffee trees that make up most of the fields.

In a report delayed by the pandemic, Conab projected arabica coffee production at 47.37 million 60-kg bags compared with 34.29 million bags in 2019. Arabica production was seen in January in the range between 43.2 and 45.98 million bags.

Robusta coffee production was seen at 14.25 million bags versus 15 million bags in 2019.

“Besides the fact that we were in a ‘on-year’ in the biennial production cycle, favorable climate conditions were key for the good production,” said the agency.

Conab numbers came in below market estimates for this year’s production. An average of estimates from analysts and traders polled by Reuters indicates a crop around 68 million bags.

Conab said farmers were increasingly using resources such as irrigation systems and mechanized harvesting, which are seen boosting future crops. The 2018 and 2020 crops had the highest agricultural yields ever recorded, it said, around 33 bags per hectare.

Brazil’s coffee area increased 1.4% from 2019 to 2020, said Conab, to 2.16 million hectares, as around 300,000 hectares of coffee trees planted a couple of years ago came to production.

Reporting by Luciano Costa; Additional reporting and writing by Marcelo Teixeira in New York; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Nick Zieminski