Severe drought could affect China's coffee industry

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The once-in-a-century drought that has parched southwest China would affect the output of 60 percent of the coffee farms in Yunnan Province, says a report by the Coffee Association of Yunnan (CAYN).

And industry analysts say the persistent drought would also threaten coffee bean output in the next three years as well.

Yunnan, with 32,000 hectares of coffee plantations, accounts for 98 percent of China's total 490,000 mu, or 32,700 hectares, of coffee plantations, according to the CAYN.

The report was compiled after a CAYN special team investigated the effect of the severe drought in the province in April.

"Coffee seedlings planted in the past three years were affected the most," said CAYN vice president Liu Biao. "According to our conservative estimate, two fifths of the newly planted coffee seedlings in Yunnan last year have withered during the persistent drought."

In Pu'er City, where more than 100,000 farmers produce coffee, the drought affected almost all its 14,533 hectares of plantations, he said.

The key months for coffee planting in China stretch from October to March when coffee trees blossom and mature. The persistent drought since last September had dried many coffee cherries before they had matured.

"The coffee plants failed to flower or just withered," Liu said, "This will cast a shadow over the coffee bean yield in the next two years."

The drought has parched the southern areas of Yunnan Province, the northeast regions of Guizhou Province, and the eastern and southern parts of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

The drought was among the most severe in decades and more than 20 million people and 10 million head of livestock were affected by water shortages at the drought's peak.

The CAYN investigation found the quality of coffee beans produced in Yunnan this year was far below that of normal years, resulting in losses of at least 38 million yuan (5.56 million U.S. dollars).

Yunnan supplies coffee beans to international brands, including Nescafe and Maxwell House.

CAYN statistics show the world produced about 7 million tonnes of coffee beans every year while China's annual coffee bean yield was only 40,000 tonnes.

China relies heavily on imports to meet its booming coffee demand, with imports accounting for about 90 percent of the country's consumption.

Yunnan Province had planned to more than double its coffee-growing area to about 67,000 hectares from the present 32,000 hectares and raise its annual output to 100,000 tonnes in the next five years.

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