VARGINHA, BRAZIL, July 30 (Reuters) - Flying over the coffee
region in the south of top Brazilian producer state Minas
Gerais, it is possible to see brownish spots stain large parts
of the fields, signs that the worst cold snap in nearly three
decades will hurt production for at least the next two crops.
"It was worse than I imagined... It's hard to see a field
that hasn't suffered any damage," said agronomist Adriano de
Rezende, technical coordinator at the Minasul coffee
cooperative, after seeing from above for the first time the
farms in Varginha and other areas in Minas, such as Eloi Mendes,
Paraguaçu, Alfenas, Machado, Boa Esperança e Carmo da Cachoeira.
After inspecting the fields from above on Thursday, the
agronomist estimated that between 20% and 30% of the crops were
hit by the unusually cold temperatures that reached the region
on July 20 in the worst frost since 1994, according to farmers
Minasul operates in important production centers 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
Another key producing region, the Cerrado Mineiro, has also
been severely impacted.
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
Despite estimating the area hit by the cold, 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
"But it is a fact that 2022 will not be an on-year" he
commented, referring to the biannual production cycle of arabica
coffee which alternates years of high and lower production,
since trees get stressed after a large crop and produce less the
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.
Back on the ground, and while visiting the Mato Dentro farm
in Varginha along with Reuters, 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 bad 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 a 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".
More frosts were reported on Friday in several areas in
Brazil, as a new polar mass advances through the center-south
But the farmer said the damage will not increase much, since
the same areas are likely to be hit.
Jose Marcos Rafael 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.
Magalhaes estimates the coffee sector in Minas Gerais will
loose 5 billion to 6 billion reais ($971.5 million-$1.17
billion) due to lost production.
($1 = 5.1469 reais)
(Reporting by Roberto Samora
Writing by Ana Mano and Marcelo Teixeira
Editing by Marguerita Choy)