La Niña and Colombia’s Harvest Cycle

Our agronomy team is executing our pre-harvest prognostic assessment to gain an accurate harvest estimate, and they reported some curious developments on the farms. Photos show large green cherries waiting to ripen, small buds that will develop in time for the main harvest, and finally, white flowers signaling the fly crop of next spring—all on a single branch! The cycles of coffee trees are overlapping. 

Why? Salgar hasn’t seen the dry season we typically enjoy around this time of the year. Warm weather and direct sunlight help trigger the final phase of ripening to that deep red color we look for when picking. Without those conditions, the cherries simply bide their time. 

So instead of a peak production period in May and June, our farms are giving a steady flow of lesser volumes that will continue through August and into the main harvest. We are currently seeing a strong weather pattern in Colombia that is creating an unusual fly crop in Antioquia and other producing regions. La Niña is here, and the trees know it.

In short, La Niña is a climatic phenomenon that occurs when the Pacific Ocean’s temperatures around the equator trends cooler than normal for an extended period of time. (Conversely, El Niño is what we call a warmer than average period of the tropical Pacific. See current conditions and learn more from NOAA here.

La Nina weather conditions

Lower temperatures in the Pacific bring cool, humid air to Colombia’s coast and create rainy climates throughout the country. Rain is good, but sun is also needed to trigger the final maturation of cherries. Historically, La Niña years bring decreased production in Colombia and increased internal prices. In other parts of the world, La Niña also has a significant impact on climate. In Brazil, for example, coffee growers anticipate higher temperatures and little rain, challenging them to keep their harvest from drying up. 

By this week in a typical year, our mitaca harvest would be wrapped up. This time around, we expect the majority of our fly crop to mature in late July and August. While we don’t foresee quality issues (the elongated development of cherries might actually produce stellar coffees), we are seeing a prolonged fly crop throughout Antioquia. These are strange times, and with everything else that’s been happening in Colombia, delays are becoming a reality.

We’ll be keeping an eye on weather trends to anticipate their effects throughout the main harvest. What we expect for now is a continuation of a slow, steady harvest through the end of the year, with an increase in production during December and January. Please keep this in mind as you plan your purchases from Antioquia and Colombia.