Wires

Honduran coffee exports down 5.5% during 2018/19 season

Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Coffee exports from Honduras, Central America's top producer, dropped 5.5% during the 2018/2019 harvesting season and are likely to keep falling in the new season, the national coffee institute IHCAFE said on Tuesday.

Honduran exporters shipped a total of 6.8 million 60-kg bags in the season, representing $950 million in sales.

At the beginning of the season, IHCAFE had projected exporting 8.1 million bags.

Shipments in September, the last month of the harvest, fell 16.2% compared to the same period the year before, to 248,940 bags, according to IHCAFE data.

Industry representatives attributed the poor figures to low prices worldwide.

"The fall in harvest exports is due to prices in the global market below production costs that didn't let producers fertilize and properly care for their farms," said Miguel Pon, executive director of Honduras' coffee exporters association (Adecafeh).

IHCAFE forecast earlier this month that exports will fall 4.6% in the 2019/2020 season.

The coffee season in Central America and Mexico, which together produce about a fifth of the world's arabica beans, runs from October through September.

Faced with price woes, many coffee producers are abandoning their farms, and some are even migrating to the United States.

According to IHCAFE, Honduras' coffee-producing region shrunk to 337,953 hectares (835,100 acres) from 356,696 hectares, or about 5.25%, over the course of the year's harvest.

(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)