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Colombia Coffee Crop May Fall as Rain Causes Fungus

Sept. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Colombia’s coffee harvest may decline in 2011 after wet weather caused the worst outbreak of a plant-damaging fungus in a quarter of a century, robbing plants of nutrients for next year’s beans, a growers’ leader said.

Above-average rainfall for a second straight season in 2010 will lead to a third year of “low” output in 2011, Jose Sierra, who represents Antioquia, the nation’s largest coffee-growing province, said today in a telephone interview.

Coffee soared 33 percent this year in New York, in part because adverse weather has impeded Colombia from making a sustained recovery from its worst coffee crop last year since 1976. Colombia’s National Federation of Coffee Growers last week forecast the country’s 2010 output of 10 million bags.

Wet weather “triggers a lot of disease like the coffee-fungus problem,” Sierra said today in an interview in Bogota. “This phenomenon hasn’t been seen in 25 years.”

Coffee prices probably will remain high amid a “scarcity” of the bean, Sierra said. In Colombia it is raining in months usually known for dry weather, possibly as a result of climate change, he said. Antioquia, northwest Colombia, accounts for about 20 percent of the nation’s coffee.

Production in Colombia, the largest producer of mild arabica beans after Brazil, was little changed through July from the 4.82 million bags produced in the same period of 2009, when annual output was 7.8 million bags. Production will rise this year after two dry months in the first quarter helped improve plants’ yields, he said.

Each bag of coffee weighs 60 kilograms (132 pounds).

Arabica coffee for December delivery rose 3.9 cents to close at $1.8235 a pound on ICE Futures U.S. in New York.

To contact the reporter on this story: Heather Walsh in Bogota at hlwalsh@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dale Crofts at dcrofts@bloomberg.net

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