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Colombia's 2022 coffee output could hit lowest since 2014

By Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Colombia's coffee production this year is set to fall to an eight year low, with a drop in plantation renovations and in the use of fertilisers storing up problems for future crops, an industry leader told Reuters.

The expected drop in the harvest to around 12 million 60-kilogram bags, potentially the lowest since 2014, is due to strong rains caused by the La Nina weather phenomenon as well as climate change, Roberto Velez, boss of Colombia's national coffee federation, said in an interview late on Wednesday.

"In Colombia we've now gone 26 months where the monthly rainfall has exceeded the historical average ... that is accompanied by cloudiness and a lack of sun which decreases production," Velez said at an industry fair in Colombia's capital Bogota.

The drop in output comes at a time when international coffee prices are at their highest level in recent years, while Colombia's peso has fallen sharply, favoring exports.

Colombia's coffee exports could close 2022 at between 11.5 million and 12 million bags, Velez said, lower than the 12.5 million bags exported in 2021.

As well as falling production, coffee plantation renovations will fall from a typical 80,000 hectares (197,684 acres) per year to around 60,000 hectares in 2022, while rising costs of agricultural inputs, pushed upwards by the war in Ukraine, is expected to see fertilizer use drop by a fifth.

"The consequence of this will have to be paid by the next harvest," Velez said.

While rains pose a problem, Colombia's coffee plantations are healthy, with levels of coffee rust, a fungus that damages the plants leaves, and voracious coffee borer beetles, which eat the seeds, at just 5% and 2% respectively, he added.

Rains are expected to reduce next year, which could allow Colombia's coffee output to improve, Velez said.

Colombia has the capacity to produce around 14 million sacks of coffee a year. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Writing by Oliver Griffin Editing by Mark Potter)

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