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IHCafe: Honduras/Political Unrest/Production

Coffee Production In Honduras Unaffected by Political Unrest, Jittery Exporters Await Final Results

COFFEENETWORK (Bogota)- The Honduras Coffee Institute (IHCafe) said coffee output in the world’s fifth largest coffee producing nation is unaffected by political unrest after the opposition candidate promised not to accept the official results of the presidential ballots if the win is granted to his opponent, President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Tensions are high in Honduras as opposition candidate supporters remained on streets of Honduras’ capital Tegucigalpa, blocking avenues today, saying they will continue to protest, Honduran press said. But such blockades are not present in coffee-producing regions, Adilson Avila, IHCafe general manager told CoffeeNetwork.

On Thursday morning, Hernandez was leading with 42.28% of the ballot boxes counted, while Opposition Alliance presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla had 41.7% of the vote, according to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (SET). SET is expected to announce later today the final results of the count.

“The impact on coffee has been minimal because roads in coffee regions are not blocked, and because we are picking just production of lower-altitude areas. The bulk of the harvest is due December, January and February,” Avila said.

“Once, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal says the final results of the ballots today, the uncertainty will end,” he noted.

But some sources told CoffeeNetwork that jittery coffee exporters and producers are afraid that the political uncertainty may deepen, likely prompting more contested protest on the streets, affecting the business.

Avila acknowledged that road that connects the country with the main coffee port, Puerto Cortes on the Caribbean coast, was blocked for a few hours today, but the blockade was lifted later today without affecting exports of beans.

Honduras held elections on Sunday with the first report of preliminary results published on
Tuesday. At the time, Nasralla led by nearly five percentage points with 57% of the ballot boxes counted, but on the same day in the afternoon, the gap between the two main candidates began to close, and by Wednesday, Hernandez was ahead of Nasralla.

Avila expects supporters of Nasralla to continue blocking the streets of Tegucigalpa for a couple of days after the final ballot results are announced today. He said the Organization of American States (OAS) is acting as an electoral observer, and will likely endorse the results that STE will announce today. “This will give more credibility to the process, “ he said.

Honduras exported 9.5 million quintals (46-kg) or 7.22 million 60-kg bags in the October 2016-September 2017 coffee year, up 37.3% compared with the preceding year when it exported 6.704 quintals or 5.09 million 60-kg bags.

Coffee exports during the 2017-18 season are projected around 7.7 million bags.

“We expect to export 10 million quintals this year,” Avila noted.

Honduras, one of the few Central American nations where coffee production is recovering rapidly, has exported 341,173 quintals (46-kg) [the equivalent to 259,300 60-kg bags) in October-November 29, up 8% from 314,832 quintals (46-kg) in the same period last year, IHCafe, said.

The total value of shipments already exported is US$39.1 million as of November 29, down 8% from the $42.8 million in the same period last year, IHCafe noted.

The average price for exports is $114.50 per quintal, down 16% from the average $136.08 per quintal for the 2016-2017 coffee year.

Future contracts totaled 959,706 quintals, showing an increase of 40% compared to the 687,781 quintals in 206-2017 year, IHCAFE noted. Honduras has sealed future sale contracts between March 2018 and September of next year.

Coffee is produced in 15 departments in Honduras, generating more than 1 million direct jobs in the Central American nation. Coffee is the No1. Agricultural export produce, which brings in US$1.34 billion in revenues.

Writing by Diana Delgado