(Adds comments from CEO, context on Brazil's coffee crop)
GUAXUPÉ, Brazil, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Brazil's Cooxupé, the world's largest cooperative of coffee farmers, projects it will export 4.4 million 60-kg bags this year, 8 percent more than in 2017, as production jumps in the area where it operates in the Minas Gerais state.
Cooxupé's chief executive, Carlos Paulino da Costa, told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday in Guaxupé, the city where the co-op is headquartered, that farmers should deliver to its warehouses around 6 million bags of coffee in 2018, up from the 4.7 million bags received last year.
The projections signal a recovery for Brazilian coffee exports in general, which fell 10 percent last year due to a smaller crop and quality problems stemming from adverse weather and insect infestations.
Costa said the co-op's associated farmers will produce 8.4 million bags in 2018 versus 6.7 million bags last year, confirming a jump in output that has been expected by most analysts. Not all the coffee produced by associated producers is delivered to the co-op, as some producers sell it directly.
Costa said the larger production is already taking its toll on prices, and farmers are well aware of that.
"The producer knows that he will not see high prices this year. So, it will likely sell during eventual market spikes," Costa said on the sidelines of the Femagri coffee fair in Cooxupé.
Brazilian coffee producers have been hoarding sales in the expectation of possibly higher prices, another reason behind smaller shipments last year.
But Costa expects rising sales volumes in coming months.
"Farmers need to make money. And the crop is large," he said.
Costa - himself a coffee farmer in Minas - said Cooxupé is currently paying 425 reais ($130.93) per bag of fine, export-quality arabica coffee. Last year at this time, it was paying 480 reais. ($1 = 3.2459 reais) (Writing by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Franklin Paul and Leslie Adler)