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from the Front Lines

Low Coffee Prices Take The Ultimate Toll
VERACRUZ, MEXICO - A group of 14 Mexican immigrants died from exposure near Yuma recently while trying to cross the Arizona desert, reports The New York Times. Another 13 severely dehydrated people survived. They had been abandoned for a week in 114-degree temperatures by smugglers who had guided them there. Most of those dead came from poor villages of the state of Veracruz. Here, the land produces coffee, tobacco and sugar. Family members said the men had been seeking a better life after plummeting coffee prices left them no other choice.

Those who survived say the Mexicans were headed to jobs in North Carolina, where the population of Mexicans soared by 65% in the last decade.

2001 Brings Risk of Frost for Brazil
SANTOS, BRAZIL - ABECAFÉ, the Association of Brazilian Coffee Exporters is an informal group of most of the original members who meet from time to time to discuss items of trade interest. One of ABECAFÉ’s projects over the last four years has been to hold a meeting with meteorologists of SOMAR, the weather forecast firm that provides daily reports to the members of ABECAFÉ. These meetings are usually held at the beginning of the Brazilian winter season and the event this year was held recently in the auditorium of the Santos Commercial Association.

Paulo Etchichury, one of the meteorologists of SOMAR (Southern Marine Weather Services Ltda.) gave a detailed explanation of the most recent weather conditions affecting South Brazil and coffee growing areas along with predictions for the winter months. He explained the El Niño phenomenon (warming of waters in the east Pacific) bringing rains to South Brazil and drought to the North which was followed recently by La Niña (cooling of waters in the east pacific), bringing drought to the Southern States and rains in the north, that these conditions are presently in a state of transition. There are the first signs of a return of El Niño but in a weaker phase which probably will not affect Brazil weather conditions before February next year.

Etchichury stated that this transition state of El Niño and La Niña will very likely result in a more typical weather map this year over coffee country. A severe winter has not been predicted. However, we may see normal climatic conditions in which cold fronts from the South and Andes bearing atmospheric pressures of 1030 milibares or more may penetrate into coffee growing areas. These fronts moved out to sea for the past three years, avoiding such a problem. Etchichury also predicts that conditions indicate that the spring months (September/October/November) will bring a more normal rainy season, which should be sufficient to offset the soil moisture deficiency registered over the last two seasons.

It is interesting to note that this year is the first time in four years of ABECAFÉ talks and meetings with the SOMAR Meteorologists that they are alerting exporters to the risks of frost in Brazil coffee country.
-By Harry C. Jones



Tea & Coffee - July/August 2001
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