Coffee Harvest in Vietnam Set to Drop From Record on Yields

Coffee output in Vietnam, the top grower of robusta beans used by Nestle SA and Mondelez International Inc., will probably decline in the year starting October as yields shrink after a record crop.

The harvest may contract by 4 percent to 1.64 million metric tons from 1.71 million tons a year earlier, according to the median of 12 trader and analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Unsold inventories with farmers were equivalent to 19 percent of production by the end of May, from 20 percent at the same time last year, the survey showed.

Futures for robusta climbed 11 percent in 2014 on speculation that demand will outstrip supplies in the year from October, with the shortfall estimated at 1.6 million bags, or 96,000 tons, by Volcafe Ltd. A looming El Nino weather event, which parches some parts of Asia, may also support prices, says Rabobank International. A bag weighs 60 kilograms (132 pounds).

“The weather this year does seem a bit harsher with rains arriving later than usual,” said Pham Viet Dai, a 59-year-old farmer in Dak Lak province, who has planted coffee for two decades. “At this point, the fruits look nice and are of similar size to the previous year,” said Dai, who estimates collection on his plantation may drop as much as 6 percent.

Robusta traded at $1,874 a ton on NYSE Liffe today. Arabica, the variety favored for specialty drinks such as those made by Starbucks Corp., was at $1.6590 a pound on ICE Futures U.S. in New York, rebounding 50 percent in 2014 to become the best performer after lean hogs in the Standard & Poor’s GSCI Spot Index of 24 commodities.

Exhausted Plants

Plants in Vietnam are “exhausted after two big crops” and new plantations won’t make up for the weak and old ones, Alexander Gruber, trading manager at Tong Teik Pte, a company owned by RCMA Commodities Asia Pte, said by e-mail.

The global market, including arabica and robusta, will have a shortage of 11.3 million bags in 2014-2015, the most in more than a decade, from a surplus of 4.7 million bags this year, Volcafe, a unit of trader ED&F Man Holdings Ltd., said June 3.

Vietnam had a “perfect crop” in 2013-2014, said Kona Haque, head of commodities research at ED&F Man in London. “Next season, the expectation is that trees will be tired, so we will see a normalization of yields.”

While the Bloomberg survey showed a contraction in output next year, the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture expects an increase. The country will produce 29.2 million bags (1.75 million tons) compared with 29 million bags a year earlier, according to a report dated May 23.

Weather Risks

“The weather has been quite favorable for the development of coffee trees for the 2014-2015 crop as the Central Highlands continue to receive good rains since the start of the wet season in mid-April,” the FAS said in the report. “Trees, in general, have produced more cherries per branch with more productive branches per tree than in previous marketing years.”

Rainfall recorded in Dak Lak averaged 174.1 millimeters in May at 10 stations, including one in neighboring Dak Nong province, compared with 219.4 millimeters in May last year and an average of 206.2 millimeters in previous years, according to data from the province’s Meteorology and Hydrology Department. Dak Lak represents about 30 percent of the country’s harvest.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said this month that it’s on alert for an El Nino developing by August.

“Robusta futures are expected to find support in the emerging El Nino, which is likely to bring warmer-than-normal conditions to the key production regions of Vietnam,” Rabobank said in a report last month.

Beans in Dak Lak traded at 38,300 dong ($1.80) a kilogram on June 5, Trade & Tourism Center data show. Prices rose to an eight-month high of 41,900 dong in March, rallying from a three-year low of 29,600 dong in November.

Farmers had 324,000 tons of unsold stockpiles by the end of last month, compared with 300,000 tons at the same time last year, according to the survey.

— With assistance by Diep Pham

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