(Photo: Solucion Politica)

Colombia’s coffee production over the past 12 months reached its highest peak in six years, but weather phenomenon El Niño may have devastating effects on production this year, according to the National Federation of Coffee Growers (FNC).

Coffee production reached more than 11.6 million bags from August, 2013 to July, 2014; a figure that has not been seen in six years.

The increased productivity over the last five years is due to the renovation of different coffee varieties, according to the FNC.

The export of Colombian Arabica coffee similarly increased by 29% from August, 2013 to July, 2014, which rose by 2.5 million bags.

The federation’s CEO, Luis Genaro Muñoz Ortega, stated in a press release that the figures are a result of the coffee farmers hard work.

“This is the result of a great effort of the coffee farmers, their leadership and their institutions to recover and convert their plantations, which involved compromise and perseverance despite adversity to be more competitive and sustainable. Obviously we have much to do, but what we have achieved in recent years certainly shows we are on the right track,” said CEO Luis Genaro Muñoz Ortega.

Additionally, the value of the coffee crop in the first half of 2014 rose 36% to $1.43 million compared to the same time last year. This was caused by higher international prices and an increase in production. The rise in international prices were triggered by a limit in supply caused by a crop disease called “leaf rust,” which has damaged Peru’s and Central America’s production, according to American news site Bloomberg.

Concerned farmers

With the El Niño knocking on farmers’ doors, the CEO stressed that coffee farmers are on high alert because of the pending weather phenomenon’s potential effect on production.

El Niño is characterized by rising temperatures, lack of rain, and the possibility of an unusual multiplication of a coffee bean parasite, which could threaten coffee production, according to the FNC.

Colombia’s eastern areas, where farmers are expected to harvest their main crops during the first quarter of 2015, are particularly at risk.

According to the FNC, the states of Valle del Cauca, Tolima, Huila, Cauca, and Nariño are at high risk of El Niño’s effects because of their harvesting seasons.

The FNC has been monitoring the development of the climate through satellites that allow them to measure variables such as temperature, soil moisture, rain, and radiation.

However, higher temperatures and lack of rain are not the only worry of the coffee farmers.

MORE: Colombia braces for El Niño amid already harsh summer drought

Coffee bean bug could threaten production

The rising, high temperatures of El Niño can contribute to the spawning of an insect dangerous to the coffee crops.

The coffee berry borer beetle originated from Africa and is among the most harmful pests to coffee plantations. The small beetle can destroy an entire harvest if it is not detected in time; however, some coffee varieties are naturally immune to the bug.

The National Federation of Coffee Growers are recommending that coffee producers regularly and thoroughly examine their crops to ensure that the coffee berry borer does not contaminate whole areas of coffee plantations.

Additionally, the federation recommended proper fertilization to ensure that the plants absorb more nutrients before the effects El Niño cause massive drought.

Colombia’s weather institute is expecting El Niño to begin in July, August, or September with the coming winter months bringing the most severe effects.

Preventive measures

To avert huge economic disasters due to climate change and the reoccurring El Niño phenomenon, the government along with the coffee farmers, has attempted to look for preventive measures.

The planting of new crops between 2009 and 2014 sought to enhance productivity and resist fungus growth in order to better the coffee bean’s ability to grow under changing climate.

During the same period, Colombia renewed 3.051 million coffee plants with different varieties to prepare for the climate changes affecting Colombia and the rest of the world.

This makes around 63% of the coffee planted adaptable to regional climate change, but the remaining plants could suffer remarkably.

Ghost of the past

In 2009-2010 Colombia lost $634.4 million due to sectors affected by El Niño, according to local newspaper Diario del Huila.

Former effects of El Niño in the past have had great influence on the agriculture. According to a report by the UN’s Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), between June 1 and October 4, 2009; 52,942 acres of forest, vegetation, and crops were burned.

The areas most affected were in the eastern and the northwestern parts of Colombia. This was due to a rise in temperature between 32.9 and 34.7 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the report by OCHA.


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