Brazil frosts hit coffee, sugarcane areas; production impact seen

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Frosts were reported in several agricultural areas in Brazil over the weekend, including coffee and sugarcane production regions, and cooperatives and companies expected some impact as they assessed the situation.

Cane, coffee, late-planted winter corn and wheat are the most vulnerable crops in Brazil’s south and southeast regions, where frosts were reported as the country was hit by the most intense polar air mass so far this year.

Sugar companies and coffee cooperatives sent agronomists to the fields for a better evaluation. Sugar and ethanol maker Sao Martinho SA said that 12,000 hectares of its cane fields were hit by frosts. However, it said it expects eventual losses to production to be minor.

Coffee cooperative Minasul, in top producer Minas Gerais state, said frosts hit mostly low-lying areas and mountaintops. “We are still evaluating, but it seems clear that there will be some impact to production,” Minasul President José Marcos Magalhães told Reuters on Monday.

A better assessment for coffee and sugar cane fields will probably take a few days.

Brazil is in the middle of coffee harvesting, and any impact would be felt only in next year’s crop. Traders were expecting a record crop in 2020, when the country returns to the on-year in the biennial arabica cycle. But it is unclear now whether production could surpass the 2018 record near 62 million 60-kg (132 lb) bags.

Rural Clima, a weather services company serving farmers and cooperatives, frosts were stronger in the south, in corn and cane areas in Parana, but farms in states such as Mato Grosso do Sul, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais, in central Brazil, were also affected.

“For coffee, it seems that young fields suffered the most, and the higher parts of adult trees,” said Ludmila Camparotto, an agrometeorologist at Rural Clima.

She said coffee farmers might cut the top of plants to eliminate burned parts, preserving the lower part of trees in hopes of recovery for the next crop.

“Late-planted corn in Paraná, crops planted around March, could have problems,” Camparotto said, referring to fields still in the reproductive stage.

Numerous pictures of frost-hit crops were posted on social media on Monday.

“But you have to be careful with that; it is hard to assess if all images are recent, and if frosts were widespread or only localized,” said Vanusia Nogueira, head of Brazil’s BSCA specialty coffee association.

Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Nick Zieminski, Dan Grebler and David Gregorio