Brazil’s official coffee output data ‘far too low’

images (9) Is Brazil producing more coffee than it is letting on? Consumers had better hope so, or futures in arabica beans will be approaching 500 cents a pound.

Judith Ganes-Chase, the veteran soft commodities analyst, has seconded the concerns of the US Department official who warned that figures from the Brazilian crop agency, Conab, did not add up.

While USDA estimates for Brazil’s coffee harvest, the world’s biggest, have "never been negative in the end of the cycle… the same does not happen if you use Conab’s number in a long-term data series", the official said earlier in the year.

Ms Ganes-Chase said: "If the Conab figures are on the mark, Brazil would have run out of stocks a few years ago."

Crop downgrade

Her comments come the week after Conab trimmed to 43.15m bags, its forecast for the nearly-finished 2011-12 harvest.

The figure, while 390,000 bags lower than the previous forecast, was still a record for a co-called "off" year in Brazil’s two-season cycle of higher and lower production.

And for Conab to unveil a downgrade fitted with anecdotal evidence.

"The lowering of the production estimate it does indicate that yields were off from what was originally anticipated, supporting recent trade and producer comments," Ms Ganes-Chase, president of New York-based J Ganes Consulting, said.

‘Just don’t fit’

Nonetheless, Brazil looks too conservative on its coffee output, even if taking the larger crop from the latest "on" year, in 2010-11, into account.

The country has, over the two seasons, produced 91m bags of coffee.

Factoring in domestic consumption of 41m bags over the two years, that leaves 50m bags for shipments.

"Brazil shipped more than 33m bags in 2010-11 plus another roughly 8m in the first three months of the current season, leaving only 9m bags left to be shipped in the next nine months," Ms Ganes-Chase said.

"There is no way that Brazil will be shipping that few bags."

If that was the case, "the market would not be encountering selling pressure at 300 cents a pound but probably in its way to 500 cents a pound".

"The Conab figures just don’t fit with the other known variables."

Setbacks to 2012 already?

In fact, Brazil could achieve far bigger production numbers, Ms Ganes-Chase said, restating the potential for a 60m-bag harvest "if all goes well".

However, this figure was looking less likely to be achieved in 2012 following frost this year, which may have damaged flowering and setting of next year’s crop, and a dry July and August period which "was even drier than usual this year".

These factors were "leading to concerns that yields may be disappointing [in 2012-13] and the crops will not reach maximum potential".

Coffee for December delivery stood 0.8% higher at 264.05 cents a pound in morning deals in New York.

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