September 20, 2019 / 3:49 AM / 24 days ago

Honduras coffee exports to fall as farmers' plight deepens - industry

* Lower coffee bean prices, climate change weigh

* Farmers abandon coffee farms to migrate north

* Coffee businesses still reeling from La Roya rust disease

By Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Coffee exports from Honduras are expected to fall in the next harvest, a senior industry official said on Thursday, as lower bean prices in the global market and climate change dented businesses across the Central American country.

Honduras, the largest coffee exporter in Central America, expects its 2019-2020 harvest to drop by about 4.6% to 6.6 million bags of 60kg each, the Honduran Coffee Institute said.

Apart from falling prices, climate change was another factor that had made coffee growing difficult for many in recent years, Francisco Ordonez, director of Honduran Coffee Institute, said in an interview with Reuters.

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.

“The price problem has not allowed producers to nourish the plants with fertilizers and practice cultural care, and the drought has added up impacting the farms,” Ordonez said.

More and more coffee farmers have abandoned their coffee farms in recent months to migrate north and try their luck in the United States even as U.S. President Donald Trump sought to halt the flow of migrants.

The trend of abandoning farms was such that the area of ​​coffee in production in Honduras fell for the new harvest to 337,952.84 hectares from 356,695.53 in the 2018-2019 harvest, Ordonez said.

Many coffee farmers in Honduras and other Central American countries as well as Mexico are still reeling from the La Roya disease that devastated crops, causing trees to lose its leaves and the ability to grow beans. (Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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