Robusta varietals were first planted in Brazil only 60 years ago* at Cachoeiro de Itapamerim but commercial farms did not spread far until the 1990s. Today Brazil is the second largest robusta producer in the world with coffee covering 2.5 million acres.
Producers initially feared that low-cost robusta would replace arabica production, a coffee segment that Brazil has dominated for 150 years. In time the numbers proved that diversifying the crop increased profit overall, making Brazil the global leader in coffee production at 2.5 billion kilos. Here is a rundown of growing regions from small to large.
Coffee in the state of Bahia is concentrated in three regions: Cerrado and Planalto primarily grow arabica and Atlântica is predominately robusta. There are 345,000 acres planted in coffee about 75% of which is arabica. Embrapa reports these regions different in geographical features and adoption of technology. In 2016 the harvest yielded 2.1 million bags (1.3 million bags of arabica and 826,000 bags of robusta). The average farm in Bahia is 74 acres.
Rondonia planted robusta exclusively and produces the second largest robusta crop. The plant adapted perfectly to the local climate, soil and topography since its initial plantings and now covers 215,000 acres (87,657 ha) mainly owned by small families.
Producers already have sold 90% of the 2016 harvest. Now, farmers are working to maintain the plants to maximize production next year. In addition too little rain, the miner bug, nematodes, and coffee drills are problems that have arisen in the past few months.
According to CONAB coffee production is undergoing a transition as old plants are replaced by new clonal varietals. To achieve productivity and quality goals, the local government supports farmers through the State Secretariat for Agriculture, Livestock and Land Regularization (Seagri).
Partnerships with rural extension institutions like Emater Rondonia include training producers in 44 municipalities. Financial agents such as Banco da Amazôna, Banco do Brasil and individual credit plans at cooperatives also help these small farmers to implement technical changes that increase yield.
Espírito Santo is the heart of robusta production in Brazil, accounting for 20% of robusta globally. Robusta supports 80% of small rural properties in the state and accounts for 35% of the nation’s agricultural gross domestic product (GDP). Arabica makes up 28% of the state’s total yield.
The latest report from governmental Institute of Research, Technical Assistance and Rural Extension of Espírito Santo (INCAPER) states that:
- Robusta covers 700,00 acres (283,000 hectares) of the 1.1 million acres of coffee planted in the state;
- Robusta is grown on 40,000 farms, distributed across 63 municipalities and employs 78,000 families;
- Robusta generates 250,000 direct and indirect jobs
Highly skilled producers can achieve production levels of 100 60-kilo bags per hectare (40 bags per acre). The average is 35 bags per hectare (14 bags per acre).While the size of Brazil’s farms is small, averaging 8 hectares, about 70% of robusta growers irrigate. This and the help of Technical Assistance and Rural Extension (Incaper), are reasons why productivity increased significantly in the past 25 years.
Replacing aging stock with new varietals that display improved genetic characteristics is one of several actions that Brazil is undertaking to produce more and better robusta. Currently there are 200 gardens growing clonal seedlings to spread across the Brazilian territory. Diamante ES8112, Centenária ES8132, EMCAPA 8141 Robustão Capixaba, and EMCAPER 8151 Robusta Tropical are some of the new cultivars registered and protected at Espírito Santo.