El Niño and Colombian Coffee Production

The El Niño weather pattern is back and coffee producers in Colombia are concerned. Colombia is the world’s third leading producer of coffee and the leading producer of high quality Arabica coffee. Less rainfall, more sunny days, and higher temperatures are likely to affect coffee production, coffee diseases, and coffee quality. How long this lasts and how severe its impact will likely determine the quality as well as the price your cup of coffee in the coming year. Thus we are concerned about El Niño and Colombian coffee production.

What Is El Niño?

El Niño is a recurring weather phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean. Trade winds that normally blow west along the equator weaken or even reverse and blow east. Normally cold water rises from the ocean depths to replace the water flowing west. This ceases during an El Niño event and the jet stream moves south of its normally neutral position over the equator. Warm water can be pushed back east toward the west coast of the Americas during an El Niño event. While all of this creates more rainfall in the western USA, countries along the west coast of South America experience less rainfall. This includes the coffee growing regions of Colombia. El Niño occurs on the average every seven years but can happen every couple of years or not for ten years or more. The typical El Niño lasts less than a year but can last longer such as the 1991 to 1995 El Niño event.

El Niño and Colombian Coffee Production

How Does El Niño Affect Colombia?

Warmer and dryer weather caused by El Niño can affect both the main coffee crop in Colombia and the secondary mitaca crop. How long El Niño event this will last is a guess even for meteorologists. The most important time will be first months of 2024 with lower rainfall and higher temperatures throughout the coffee growing regions. Historically an El Niño event will increase production of the secondary or mitaca crop. The main crop can be increased or decreased.

A moderate El Niño event historically tends to increase Colombian coffee by fifteen or sixteen percent. A stronger event may even reduce production below average levels. A normal El Niño year will result in between one million three hundred thousand and one million eight hundred thousand extra bags of Colombia coffee production.

Specific issues include rainfall or lack of it when coffee plants are flowering. If plants become excessively dry at this time in can result in a much greater reduction in coffee production than otherwise anticipated. One blessing in disguise that comes with El Niño is that coffee leaf rust is less of a problem when coffee growing areas dry out.

Effect of El Niño On Colombia Coffee Quality

A typical El Niño event causes a substantial increase in coffee borer infestations. There is also typically an increase in the percentage of lower grades of coffee by as much as six to nine percent. Coffee borer infestations intend to increase by about five percent. Filling defects like “averanado” beans become more common as do smaller screen sizes, and black bean. As many as seven hundred thirty-two bags of substandard coffee above the average is being projected for this El Niño weather event.

Effects of El Niño and Latitude in Colombia

Historically the various regions of Colombia are affected differently by El Niño. Northern regions above 7 degrees north latitude and regions below 3 degrees north latitude are less affected by El Niño events. These areas include Huila and east of Caldas. Altitude and cloud cover can be major factors in whether El Niño helps of hurts the local coffee crop.

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