Smallest India coffee crop in 19 years may fuel price rally

Output will decline at least 30% in the harvesting season starting from 1 October, compared with a record 350,000 tons a year earlier


Robusta production may drop by at least 25% to 30% while high temperatures are threatening arabica with white stem borrower disease outbreak. Photo: Bloomberg
Robusta production may drop by at least 25% to 30% while high temperatures are threatening arabica with white stem borrower disease outbreak. Photo: Bloomberg

New Delhi: Coffee production in India is set to tumble to a 19-year low as dry weather wilts plantations in Asia’s third-largest grower.

Output will decline at least 30% in the harvesting season starting from 1 October, compared with a record 350,000 tons a year earlier, according to Nishant Gurjer, a member and past chairman of the Karnataka Planters Association. That would mean a crop of 245,000 tons, the lowest since 1997-98, according to state-run Coffee Board data.

A smaller harvest will cut Indian exports, supporting arabica prices that entered a bull market last month amid concern that global supply will continue to shrink on El Nino-induced crop losses in South America and Southeast Asia. Shipments from India, which exports more than 70% of its production, may fall in 2016-17 from a year earlier, Gurjer said.

“Blossoming has not been very good because rains have been quite a failure,” Gurjer said. “It’s not a very comforting scenario. It will be minimum of 30% drop in production. Could be more, could be less depending on how the weather pans out in a week to 15 days.”

Bull market

Prices of arabica beans, favoured by Starbucks Corp., entered a bull market on ICE Futures US in New York last month as adverse weather from El Nino threatened to shrink output in Brazil and Colombia, the top producers. The contract for delivery in July rose as much as 0.6% to $1.222 a pound on Thursday. Robusta futures in London, headed for the third monthly gain in the longest rally since April 2014, were little changed at $1,572 a ton on Thursday.

India produces mainly robusta coffee, which needs a lot of water. Robusta production may drop by at least 25% to 30% while high temperatures are threatening arabica with white stem borrower disease outbreak, Gurjer said.

“Where there is no irrigation robusta has been damaged, and I would say quite badly,” Anil Kumar Bhandari, president of India Coffee Trust and a former member of the state-run Coffee Board. “There will be damage to arabica because of the intense heat.”

Karnataka, the biggest coffee producing state, received 52% below-average rainfall between 1 March and 20 April, according to the India Meteorological Department. Showers were 51% below average in Kerala, while the shortfall was 81% in Tamil Nadu, department data show.

India’s coffee exports climbed 13% to 319,734 tons in 12 months ended 31 March from a year earlier, the board said on 1 April. Bloomberg