VARGINHA, BRAZIL, July 30 (Reuters) - Brownish spots have
stained large areas of coffee fields in the south of Brazil's
top producer Minas Gerais, a sign that the worst cold snap in
nearly 30 years will hurt production for at least the next two
crops, according to an agronomist.
Adriano de Rezende, technical coordinator at the Minasul
coffee cooperative, estimated that between 20% and 30% of the
crops were hit by the unusually cold temperatures that reached
the region on July 20, spurring the worst frost since 1994,
according to farmers and analysts.
"It was worse than I imagined," said Rezende said after
flying over the region on Thursday. "It's hard to see a field
that hasn't suffered any damage."
Rezende flew over farms in Varginha and other areas in
Minas, such as Eloi Mendes, Paraguaçu, Alfenas, Machado, Boa
Esperança e Carmo da Cachoeira.
The agronomist and local farmers said that frost struck the
region again on Friday but it was less intense, also hitting the
Serra da Mantiqueira area, as a new polar mass advances through
the center-south region.
Minasul operates in the south of Minas Gerais, a region that
accounted for around 40% of arabica coffee production in Brazil
in 2020. Arabica is the main type used by large coffee companies
such as Starbucks and Nestle.
Another key producing region, the Cerrado Mineiro, has also
been severely impacted.
Minasul President Jose Marcos Rafael Magalhaes estimates the
coffee sector in Minas Gerais will lose 5 billion to 6 billion
reais ($971.5 million-$1.17 billion) due to lost production.
The frosts in Brazil, the world's largest producer and
exporter of coffee, sent prices in New York sky-rocketing
to above $2 per pound for the first time since 2014 earlier this
Rezende believes it is early to estimate production losses
precisely, as more frosts were expected.
He also said that the intensity of the burning by the cold
varies even in the same field in a farm, what makes the
The production cycle of arabica coffee alternates years of
high and lower production, since trees get stressed after a
large crop and produce less the following year.
Brazil is currently in an off-year, with production seen at
around 55 million 60-kg bags by analysts, down from around 70
million bags in 2020. The worst drought in 90 years has also
A larger production in 2022 was considered key by analysts
to guarantee a balanced global supply next year, as consumption
grows around the world due to the reopening of coffee shops
after coronavirus-related restrictions.
While visiting the Mato Dentro farm in Varginha, the
agronomist said that in a month's time, all the burned leaves
will be on the ground, which will make it easier to check how
badly the trees were damaged.
The more heavily damaged trees will need a heavy pruning,
which means they will only produce again after two years.
Farmer Flavio Figueiredo de Rezende, who produces coffee in
Varginha and Carmo da Cachoeira, said that before the frosts, he
was expecting near record production in 2022.
"But now, if we produce the same as this year's, it would be
already good. It is sad, but that is part of our struggle".
The farmer said the damage will not increase much, since the
same areas are likely to be hit by the new polar mass.
Magalhaes, Minasul's president, who is also a farmer, said
that most of the production potential for coming crops was lost.
He also said that a lot of coffee seedlings, which became
key for the recovery work ahead, were also burned by the cold.
"The recovery will take long. Beyond the damage to young
trees, there are no seedlings to plant or expand," he said.
($1 = 5.1469 reais)
(Reporting by Roberto Samora
Writing by Ana Mano and Marcelo Teixeira
Editing by Marguerita Choy)