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Vietnam coffee production suffers from extreme weather

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Extreme weather conditions are hitting coffee production in Vietnam, the world’s largest exporter of low-end robusta beans used in instant coffee, an industry official said Friday.

Severe cold and drought saw Vietnam’s coffee production in the 2013-2014 crop tumble eight percent on the year before, Do Ha Nam, Vice President of the Vietnam Coffee-Cocoa Association (VICOFA) told AFP.

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Higher-quality arabica beans have also been severely affected by continuing low temperatures in the north of the country, he said.

Crops in the main robusta-growing region, in the communist country’s Central Highlands, were also hit by a drought last year.

“The cold has severely hit coffee production in recent months in the northwest province of Son La where 1,300 hectares of (arabica) coffee — more than 10 percent of its total production — were damaged,” Nam said.

“Coffee production for the 2013-14 crop was 1.37 million tons, down eight percent compared to the previous season,” he added.

In 2012, Vietnam exported 1.73 million tons of coffee, worth some $3.67 billion and accounting for more than 50 percent of the world’s robusta, which is used in instant coffee or other blends.

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“The drought especially hit coffee production in the first quarter of 2013, with more than 34,000 hectares affected in the Central Highlands,” Nam said.

Vietnam is the world’s second-largest coffee producer and is seen as high volume rather than high quality — its bitter-tasting robusta wins few accolades internationally and is mostly exported as raw beans.

But robusta prices hit a nine-month peak at the start of March and arabica-quality coffee has surged close to 60 percent in value since the start of the year due to a drought in Brazil — the world’s biggest coffee producer and exporter.

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A Ho Chi Minh City-based coffee trader for a major international firm remained optimistic that the adverse weather.

“It’s dry season — so you always have dry weather,” the trader told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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“It is completely normal. It (a drought) could still happen but we will only know in four or five weeks if the rains don’t come,” the trader added.


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