We are SO excited to let you know that after more than 1 full year worth of preparations and research SpillingTheBeans is getting a BRAND NEW Special Series on the world’s largest coffee producing and exporting nation, Brazil ready. The series is being published in the oldest and biggest industry magazine, the Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, during the last half of 2016 and marks the 3rd Anniversary of the very first such Special Series to be published by any magazine covering the coffee industry from seed to cup — a project SpillingTheBeans has worked tirelessly on making happen throughout the last decade. In honor of the new series on Brazil we are proud to re-publish our very first series on Brazil, which ran between July and December of 2013. While the specifics in terms of production numbers vary from then to now, the general overview and fascinating historic insight remains up to date. Don’t miss this unique and exclusive insight on Brazil and Happy Coffee Drinking!
Since the very first beginnings of modern world coffee history Brazil has been the world’s largest producer and industry analysts agree it’s only a question about time before Brazil will overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest coffee consumer as well. Stretched out over 2.3 million hectares of land the South American giant accounts for close to 40 percent of total world output in any given harvest cycle, and there is no indication that anyone involved in Brazil’s coffee industry will allow for that share to dwindle. At this time, Brazil is facing the worst drought in over 70 years and there is no doubt that the damage will be severe and the impact potentially devastating for both the new 2014-15 harvest and the next 2015-16 harvest. Despite this current upset, there is also no doubt either that Brazil will maintain its dominance in the world of coffee. SpillingTheBeans have visited Brazil frequently for 15 years and the efficiency and passion applied to coffee growing here is nothing less than mind blowing. In the first of a 6-part series developed especially for the Tea & Coffee Trade Journal we will take a special in depth look at the many aspects of Brazil’s coffee industry, the coffee regions and analyze what this mean for the future to come.
BY MAJA WALLENGREN
Visiting Brazil for a crop trip to origin is a mind blowing experience for anyone involved in coffee. And for those whose very first experience with a producing country is a visit to Brazil, there will never be the same room for understanding the rest of the coffee world at large. Because it’s impossible not to compare everything you see elsewhere with Brazil and, really, there is no just comparison. Brazil is always bigger, everything seems more efficient, and no other producing country in the world from Africa to South-East Asia or Central America seem to be able to offer any competitive advantage that can match that of Brazil.
Yes, the unique specialty coffees seen emerging from the mountain slopes of southern Ethiopia or northern Guatemala will offer cupping profiles that are always going to be hard to match, but while just 10 years ago many still did not believe Brazil had the capacity to offer top-quality coffees, this has today been proven wrong. Through programs such as the Cup of Excellence internet auction, Brazil holds the second highest price on record ever achieved at $49.75 per pound.
“Brazil is fundamental to the global coffee industry, not only because it is the main producer but also the second largest consumer worldwide, tailing the United States and growing between 2 percent and 4 percent in consumption per year,” said veteran Brazilian coffee trader Christian Wolthers of Florida-based arabica importers Wolthers America Inc.
“All the planting and care technology, as well as the research and development on varieties and mechanization tools, this is where Brazil has set the pace for the upcoming supply and high quality challenges. No country beats Brazil’s combined opportunities and dynamics regarding production yields, quality development, cost efficiency and getting the coffee to the market,” Wolthers said.
With Brazil’s export market today established at between 30 million and 35 million 60-kilogram bags the efficiency required from harvest to port loading in handling this volume of shipments have during the years been improved to perfection. And roasters in all the main consuming markets from Europe to the U.S. will willingly tell how the consistency between the samples cupped prior to ordering any bag of coffee and the bean quality of the coffee received will equally be a perfect match. The consistency and efficiency make up a significant share of the equation for Brazil’s success.
SO does the diversity and variety of the Brazilian coffee lands. An overlook of Brazil’s coffee regions are as diverse as a trip through an entire coffee producing continent. Make your pick, and you can find everything you are looking for within that one country of over 8 million square kilometers that also makes up the 5th largest nation in the world.
The southern-most coffee growing region, Parana was for years Brazil’s biggest producing state, and produced at the height of its vigor in the mid-1960s as much as 22 million bags of coffee. Then came the big frosts of 1974-75 and 1978-79 and within less than a decade hundreds of thousands hectares of coffee was either uprooted or abandoned and what used to be small quaint colonial cities across the Brazilian south were left behind as ghost towns.
“Look at this, this was all coffee when I was growing up and came here for school vacations with my family,” said 78-year-old producer Luiz Hafers, pointing out over a vast open field of pasture and livestock on each side of the road during a recent trip to Parana.
While the big frosts in Parana in the 1970s forever changed the Brazilian coffee industry, it was not all bad as the exodus from the coffee farming in Parana led to the mass migration of coffee into Southern Minas which proved to be at less frost prone and helped stabilize Brazil’s production cycles.
The producers who stayed behind have maintained Parana’s production on the map of coffee in Brazil, with production in the new harvest seen reaching 1.7 million bags, down 7.7 percent from the last harvest of 1.84 million bags.
Driving through the main producing region of Brazil’s biggest coffee growing state of Minas Gerais for hundreds of kilometers in each direction as far as the eye can see, the only thing you can see is coffee. Row after row, hill after hill in the Sol do Minas, or Southern Minas region, is covered by coffee.
Minas Gerais state accounts for between 50% to 60% of Brazil’s total coffee production in any given harvest cycle, with the main growing regions of Southern Minas, Cerrado and Zona Da Mata alone accounting for about 30%, 11% and 13% respectively, according to official statistics. The 2012-13 harvest here is pegged to rise 20 percent to 26.6 million bags from 22.2 million bags a year back, representing a whopping 53 percent of the entire national output in 2012-13, according to Brazil’s crop forecasting agency Conab. And roasters in the U.S. love to talk about how many of the most sought-after quality beans from Brazil come from the different regions in Minas.
Brazil’s Sao Paulo state is home to some of the oldest coffee estates and is the state with the highest on-year crop volume forecast for the 2012-13 cycle. Production here is expected to rise 62 percent to 5.04 million bags from 3.1 million bags a year ago, but across the increasingly industrialized state the labor problem is even bigger than seen in Minas.
“We have a horrible crisis with the labor situation, 70% of the production here is harvested mechanically but 30% depends on manual labor,” said Clovis da Silva Nunes at Fazenda Tozan, one of the oldest coffee farms in the country that still has coffee in production 300 years after the first trees were planted.
Located just outside the 1-million large city of Campinas in the state of Sao Paulo, the closeness of Campinas to Brazil’s commercial capital of Sao Paulo just 100 kilometers south, makes it increasingly difficult to compete for labor, said da Silva Nunes. Even with the incentive of the 30% premium for semi-washed coffee, also known as “de-pulped” in Brazil, there is not enough price motivation for farms like Tozan to consider increasing the volume they process of that coffee, currently between 20% and 30% of the total harvest at Tozan.
At the start of the 21st millennium, the buzz in the market was all about northern Bahia’s potential for major expansions especially into fully washed arabica coffee. From local producers and exporters in Brazil to roasters and importers in the U.S. and Europe all agreed that Bahia most likely was the new frontier in the world of coffee.
“An important factor which has been occurring here in Brazil is that the on and off cycles which have been very characteristic of the historical Brazilian coffee production, has now been reducing the volume gap differential. This may be due to better tending of the fields, fertilization, pruning and more transparent numbers from the various sources,” said Brazilian coffee trader John Wolthers of the Santos-based exporters Comexim.
The new frontier for Brazilian has turned out to come from a different part off the country all together with …
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