Bogotá — Following a prolonged spell of the La Niña climatic phenomenon, coffee production in Colombia, the world’s largest producer of washed mild arabica, is beginning to recover following a better harvest, with production totaling 1,025,000 60kg sacks in February, up 10% compared to the same month of last year.
Colombia’s National Federation of Coffee Growers (FNC) stated that, in the first two months of the year, production totaled 1.9 million sacks, a 5% increase over the same period last year, following a decline in production between March 2022 and February of this year of 8%, totaling 11.2 million bags, down from 12.2 million bags a year earlier.
So far this coffee-growing season (October 2022-February 2023) however, production has declined, exceeding 4.8 million sacks, but which is 9% less than the 5.3 million bags produced during the same period last year.
In spite of the improvement in production, exports fell by 6% to 928,000 60kg sacks in February, however, compared to the same month of 2022.
Exports so far this year total 1.8 million sacks, a 13% drop compared to the slightly more than two million exported in the same period of last year.
And exports over the last 12 months totaled 11.2 million sacks, an 8% decrease compared to a year earlier.
So far this coffee-growing year, exports have totaled 4.6 million bags, 13% less than the 5.3 million bags exported during the same period of the previous year.
Consulted by Bloomberg Línea, the manager of Agroindustry Research at Bancolombia, Jhon Fredy Escobar, and his team, shared what they consider to be the five main challenges for coffee growers this year.
- To recover production levels. Colombia in 2019 saw 14.8 million bags produced, and thereafter in 2020, 2021 and 2022, only achieved 90%, 85% and 75% of that harvest level, respectively. This however is due to variables that are difficult to control, such as the weather.
- To recover and maintain the rhythm of renovation of coffee plantations. Maintaining a young coffee plantation is key to increasing productivity in the field, which in the end is the most relevant variable in the profitability of any agricultural activity. The challenge is that the pace of crop renewal has slowed down, and it is complex for the coffee grower to make this decision at a time when prices, although they have corrected downwards, are still well above the levels of 2018 and 2019. For the coffee grower, renewing their crop means halting production and income from the coffee plantation while a new crop is growing.
- Maintain the health of the crop. After three years of rains, it is likely that there will be a greater prevalence of some diseases related to excess humidity. Thus, vigilance is important, and, taking advantage of the price level, investing in pest surveillance and control.
- Regaining trust among stakeholders and strengthening coffee growers’ cooperatives. According to the analysis of the Agroindustry Research division of Bancolombia, several news items during 2021 and 2022 pointed to non-compliance with future coffee delivery agreements by some coffee growers, and the difficulties that this generated in some cooperatives, a situation that erodes the trust between the parties, a key issue in any agroindustrial chain, especially in the case of an export industry.
- The export of products with a higher level of processing. The country should depend less and less on the export of green coffee and to make incursions into derivatives of the bean. Colombia, as such, is a brand positioned at a global level, and it is necessary to take greater advantage of ‘brand extension’, the use of a brand already positioned for the launching and commercialization of new categories.
Translated from the Spanish by Adam Critchley