No 30

How El Niño & La Niña Affect Production of Café de Colombia

June, 2014

WHAT'S BEHIND

How El Niño & La Niña Affect Production of Café de Colombia

When these two weather phenomena occur, coffee production tends to vary. Café de Colombia has adopted measures to mitigate their effects and ensure a reliable supply to our customers

“El Niño” and “La Niña” are two meteorological phenomena whose effects on coffee growing vary from region to region, but which in general have increased or reduced, respectively, coffee production in Colombia in recent years.

There is a El Niño situation when the ocean surface temperature is at least 0.5°C above its normal average during three consecutive months, whereas for La Niña the situation is the contrary: 0.5°C below the average.

When La Niña, with its excess of rainfall and cloud coverage, affected Colombia between 2010 and 2011, coffee production in 2011 and 2012 (years in which its effects were more strongly felt, as harvest depends on quantity and quality of flowering eight months before) was 7.8 and 7.7 million bags respectively, much lower than the average 11.7 million bags between 2002 and 2008.

La Niña, which extended until mid-2012, affected the Colombian coffee growing zones with rainfall increase of 28%  above the historical average, sunlight 16% down and an average temperature 0.8°C lower. These conditions affected flowering and productivity of the coffee plantations and favored spread of the coffee rust fungus, known as “la roya”.

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On the contrary, when not-so-strong El Niño has appeared, records show an increase of domestic production. El Niño favors dry weather and flowering and the plants receive more sunlight, which stimulates productivity. In second half of 2006 the phenomenon occurred and the annual production in 2007 rose 4.1%, while its occurrence in second half of 2009 meant a 14.1% rise in annual production in 2010.

“In principle La Niña is more harmful to Colombian coffee growing than El Niño. But their effects must be assessed regionally. In the case of La Niña, we must be attentive to the central region, from southern Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda and Quindio,” explains Carlos Armando Uribe, Technical Manager of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC).

“With El Niño there are problems of coffee berry borer (CBB) and water deficit in certain regions, with sometimes serious consequences in such regions as Huila, the eastern mountain range, Cauca and Nariño,” he adds.

Effects of La Niña

 

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Effects of La Niña in Colombia

 

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In the Colombian coffee growing regions, during La Niña there are an increase of rainfalls of between 5% and 58% and reductions of sunlight and temperature, but its effects cannot be generalized: in regions with low annual rainfall levels (lower than 1,500 mm), rise of rainfall favors development and growth of crops in traditionally drier areas, including coffee, but in regions with higher annual rainfall levels (higher than 2,500 mm), La Niña hits coffee production and increases the incidence and severity of diseases.

Some harmful effects of La Niña are excess of dampness in soils, a deficient development of trees, defoliation, drying of branches and cherries, low production, rotting of roots that may lead to affect or even kill the coffee trees. Flowering is deficient and dispersed, and trees are more susceptible to plagues and diseases such as Pink Disease (Erythricium salmonicolor) and rust (Hemileia vastatrix). La Niña also favors attack of slugs, which cause ringing of stems in young trees.

Effects of El Niño

Main effects of El Niño, on the contrary, are reduction of rainfalls and increase of sunlight and temperature.

 

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Effects of El Niño in Colombia


Under its effects, in Colombia there is a deficiency of rainfalls of between 20% and 40% in the Caribbean region and most of the Andean region, especially Nariño, Valle del Cauca, northern Huila, Tolima, Cundinamarca, Boyacá, Santander and the Catatumbo. In the coffee zone, annual precipitation may fall by 20%.

With El Niño there is water deficiency in soils, particularly in coffee crops without shade, but its effects cannot be generalized: in regions of poor sunlight and high precipitations, its effects can benefit coffee production, but in others they may be harmful, as in warm zones with soils of low dampness retention and regions with rainfall levels lower than 1,500 mm a year.

In the Colombian coffee-growing zone, expected rainfall levels decrease especially in December, January, February, June, July and August. With El Niño, the coffee regions of higher risk are the central one and at lower altitudes, in particular those lower than 1,300 masl (average temperature higher than 21.5°C).

Severe water deficits may affect development of trees, whereas flowering tends to be favored. A continuous water deficit reduces production.

In zones of lower altitude, a month without rainfall would start affecting production, whereas in higher areas, the critical limit is one month and a half. Damages to harvest depend on water deficit during flowering and filling of beans, which is critic for formation of the fruit.

Café de Colombia’s strategies to mitigate effects of El Niño and La Niña are crucial for adaptation of Colombian coffee growing to these atmospheric phenomena, as well as its strategies for a reliable supply to members of the 100% Program. Growers are now being informed of preventive measures that fit the expected rain patterns in different regions and altitudes.

With support of the Cenicafé, during 2014 the Extension Service will conduct four samplings of early warnings for Coffee Berry Borer and rust with statistical validity in order to know on time where high levels of these sanitary problems may occur and proceed to their timely control.


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