Coffee production in Colombia’s southern Cauca department is expected to increase 29 percent in 2010 from a year ago as the region’s renovated coffee trees starting to bear fruit, a top executive said.
The expected recovery in Cauca is a positive signal for Colombia, the world’s top producer of high-quality mild washed arabica, as it aims for 10 million bags this year after seeing output drop to 7.8 million bags in 2009 due to unfavorable weather and a tree renovation program.
Cauca sees output at 637,500 60-kg bags in 2010, rising from 495,833 sacks a year earlier as 4,200 hectares (10,380 acres) renovated three years ago began entering into full production, Gerardo Montenegro, executive director of Cauca’s coffee committee of coffee growers told Reuters late on Monday.
Improved flowering after a sunny spell last year also allowed a recovery in Cauca’s main harvest, Montenegro said. Cauca usually collects 70 percent of its main harvest between January and July but postponed until August because of the impact of climate change.
“Cauca is moving toward producing its maximum installed capacity of 60 million kilos of coffee (850,000 60kg-sacks) as growers began renovating their hectares with varietals that protect them from fungus attacks and varietals that give them bigger and more productive beans,” Montenegro said.
Cauca produces seven percent of the country’s total output. It grows specialty coffee on volcanic slopes that gets exported for Nespresso Nestle’s brand and U.S. coffee chain Starbucks.
Cauca has renovated 14,700 hectares in past three years with the majority of those trees entering at full production next year.
With output from old trees withering, the country’s coffee growers’ federation began a rejuvenation program at the end of 2007 with plans to replace 300,000 hectares by 2014 or 2015 when Colombia expects to have an output of 17 million bags.
Cauca is becoming increasingly important for Colombia’s coffee industry as it is one of the southern provinces where coffee producing areas are migrating. Cauca has 73,700 hectares planted with coffee, up from 61,000 in 2000. That trend will likely continue as it plans to increase coffee areas to 85,000 hectares by 2020, Montenegro said.
Provinces such as Narino, Cauca, the north of Valle del Cauca and Huila are called “the new coffee belt” as coffee acres have grown on the past years.
But production in the southern state would have been higher were it not for an attack or roya fungus that kept production from rising, Montenegro said.
About 15 to 20 percent of coffee plantations, which produce top-quality specialty beans, were attacked by roya that hits coffee leaves, affecting the photosynthesis process.
“We could have produced 10 million kilos (141,600 60-kg sacks) more coffee in our main harvest, but some people did not manage to fertilize on time,” he said.
The roya attack prompted growers to cut trees planted with the varietal Caturra — which has high production and good quality but is not resistant to roya — and replanted with resistant varietals.
“Roya has been a motivation to renovate trees as 82 percent of plantations are Caturra and other traditional varietals,” Montenegro said.
With growers replanting trees, coffee production in Cauca will stagnate next year as the new trees will only bear fruits until 2013, he said.
Cauca produces coffee in 32 of the 42 municipalities that comprise the state with the large majority grown in ranches with less than 2.8 hectares. (Diana Delgado / Reuters)