Summit News

Colombia coffee output rising to 14-15 million bags

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian coffee output will climb to 14 million to 15 million 60-kg bags in five years with more productive crops, but no increase with areas under cultivation, said Luis Genaro Munoz of the country’s coffee federation.

After Colombia registered its lowest production in more than three decades last year, Munoz said crops were recovering solidly thanks to more favorable weather, strong fertilizer usage and decent flowering of coffee plants.

Colombia, which slipped one notch to become the world’s No. 4 coffee producer because of last year’s fall in output, expects to recover to 10 million to 11 million bags this year after producing just 7.8 million in 2009.

“After such an agonizing and dramatic period when rains created such a fall in production last year, crops are starting to recover, particularly in 2010 in terms of volume,” Munoz said at the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit.

“Everything indicates the second half will without any doubt be better than the first half and that means Colombia will reach about 10 to 11 million bags,” he said.

Munoz said April production looked like it would be double the output of last year’s 345,000 bags, but he said Colombia would still have first-half production at 4.5 million bags -- below its initial estimate of 5.1 million bags.

Output was hit last year by wet weather and a renovation program to replace aging trees with new, more productive ones. The program temporarily took some coffee land out of production while new trees were planted. But new areas are now coming into production.

Colombia, the world’s top supplier of top-quality arabica beans, aims to renovate 70,000 hectares of coffee plants each year to help reach its production target of around 14 million to 15 million bags by 2015.

“We are talking in this year and the next about recovering production to Colombia’s average of around 11 and a half million bags,” he said. “We are talking about a rhythm of rennovation in a curve that will bring us in five years to 14 to 15 million bags.”

Colombia’s coffee federation hopes to focus its Juan Valdez chain of coffee stores in the United States on areas of high traffic, such as airports, while in stabilizing its shops in Spain and doubling its number of stores in Ecuador from 10 to 20 locations.

With specialty coffees now the federation’s key focus, Colombia expects to build on the 1.1 million bags of specialty coffee it sold last year despite slipping to become the world’s fourth largest coffee producer after Brazil, Vietnam and Indonesia.

“Today we are focused on being the supplier of the best coffee in the world,” he said. “To be the most trusted supplier, the supplier with highest specialization needed.”

Editing by John Picinich