Note for people steered to this post by search engines. This post refers to conditions in July 2013, not this year. I apologize for any inconvenience I may have caused you this year.
(click images to enlarge)
FROST TO NIP COFFEE CROP IN BRAZIL?
On his excellent blog at the WeatherBELL Professional Site, Joe D’Aleo has a fascinating article titled “Iced Coffee Anyone?” I’m sure it is interesting to all who like to speculate on coffee futures, but I’m no wheeler and dealer, and my interests ramble off into other areas.
First, with temperatures here in New Hampshire racing up through the eighties at nine AM, with dew points up near seventy, the subject of frost gets appealing.
Second, I have a hunch that we can learn a bit about our coming winter by keeping an eye on what happens in the southern Hemisphere, as they go through theirs in July.
It is winter in southern Brazil, as they pick the coffee beans, and Joe D’Aleo is noting a cold winter high is projected to settle north over southern Brazil next week, beginning on Monday. The map I show above is for Thursday, a week from today, and we all know forecasts can be wrong that far ahead, (so don’t invest your mother’s teeth on coffee futures.) However it does show possible frost (and even flurries) as far north as the state of Minas Gerais, where half of Brazil’s coffee is produced.
However Joe mentions, as a sidelight, how the production has shifted away from the state of San Paulo, which is towards the colder south and Antarctica. As recently as the early 1990’s they produced nearly a quarter of Brazil’s crop, but now it is down to 9%. Farming always involves risk, but farmers down there apparently simply got tired of putting all that work into coffee, and seeing it spoiled by frost. It is safer to invest in new plantations up towards the warmer Amazon, where the land was once was all inhabitable jungle and swamp.
This reminds me of oranges, and a time when Florida was largely inhabitable jungle and swamp, and there was no railway to ship fruit east from California. An orange up in New England was a treat, something special you might find down in the toe of a Christmas stocking, and there was good money to be made shipping them north in coastal schooners. The profit was even worth the risk of starting orchards in frost-prone in places like Georgia and South Carolina. Then, when the transcontinental railway was built, my great-grandfather (born in 1850,) raced out to California to start an orchard there. We might be a far richer family, but he was a wild young man and got involved in some sort of horse-and-buggy version of a California freeway roll-over, and rather than shipping oranges back east he himself was shipped back east as a cripple.
In any case, the influx of California oranges dropped the price, and it no longer was worth the frost-risk of planting orchards in Georgia and South Carolina, and they simply faded away.
The lessons are twofold. First, man is very adaptable when allowed to adapt. Second, sometimes protecting an old industry, such as orange groves in South Carolina or coffee plantations in San Paulo, simply preserves inefficiency.
This is not to say people shouldn’t be allowed to be inefficient, if so inclined. My vegetable garden is likely hugely inefficient, compared to agribusiness. But my broccoli tastes better.
Which reminds me. Weeds don’t stop growing, just because it’s hot.
UPDATE JULY 20
Joe D’Aleo has another article at his site. It is well worth the price of a cup of coffee a day to get see, read, and hear his insights. I feel like a salesman, but I can’t help but appreciate what I get for so little. The following two maps are a hint of the information you can get on his site on a daily basis. They show temperatures will be thirty below normal in parts of southern Brazil, and there may even be some snow in coffee bean country. The cold front will nudge north to 5 degrees south, practically to the Equator, in the Amazon!
UPDATE JLY 23
On his excellent site Joe D’Aleo reports it has snowed in Brazil, and has all sorts of maps and pictures and reports from Brazilian meteorologists. In the pictures everyone looks delighted, (except, I suppose, the farmers growing coffee.)
Tonight looks to be the coldest.