Vietnam's coffee cup could overfill two weeks earlier this year

By Ho Binh Minh   April 3, 2017 | 07:00 pm GMT+7

The rainy season is expected to begin from late April in the Central Highlands.

This year's rainy season is expected to return earlier than usual to Vietnam's coffee belt in the Central Highlands, with regular showers forecast from late this month in top growing provinces, a state forecaster said on Monday.

Early rain could help save production costs in Vietnam, the world's largest exporter of robusta. The favorable weather may also reduce the negative impact on prices from earlier expectations of short coffee supplies in May and June.

"Based on our preliminary forecasts, the rainy season will begin earlier in the southern part of the Central Highlands, starting from April 25," said Pham Vu Tuan, head of the regional weather station based in Gia Lai Province, which oversees the entire Central Highlands. 

Growers often water coffee trees between February and April before the rainy season begins in mid-May in the Central Highlands. 

The five provinces in the region produce about 80 percent of Vietnam's coffee output. 

Tuan's forecast echoed earlier projections made by the National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting made in mid-February that the rainy season could arrive early this year in the Central Highlands and Vietnam's southern region, with rainfall rising the in second half of April.

The report said the combined rainfall this month and in May in southern Vietnam would be 15-30 percent above average.

Heavy downpours hit Ho Chi Minh City last Saturday, flooding many streets in Vietnam's largest city, causing delays and cancellations to dozens of domestic and international flights, while a section of railroad was also inundated.

While Tuan's forecast may apply to the Central Highlands, the Mekong Delta food basket lying further down in the southern region could still face salination, as a weaker El Nino weather phenomenon is expected to return this year, a senior meteorologist said late last month.

Robusta beans stood at VND46,100-46,600 ($2.03-$2.05) per kilogram on Monday in Dak Lak, after London's May robusta futures contracts ended 0.37 percent at $2,153 a ton last Friday.

Prices in Vietnam have eased after reaching VND47,500, the highest since September 2011, on March 21.

Last month, top exporter Intimex said Vietnam, where unseasonal rain has disrupted the 2016/2017 crop harvest and worsened coffee bean quality, could fall short of the commodity in May-June due to rising shipments and dwindling domestic stocks.

Traders said it was still too early now to forecast the coffee output for the 2017/2018 season.

High temperatures, combined with dry conditions brought by El Nino, have already cut Vietnam's previous harvest by an estimated 8 percent to 1.6 million tons, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.