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Fears El Nino could cut region’s coffee output

The impending El Nino storm may reduce coffee production in Kenya and Uganda, Africa’s biggest exporter, by bringing heavier rains to East Africa, industry officials say. Forecasters predict that El Nino, a warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean, may be the strongest since records began in 1950.

Torrential rains are expected in parts of eastern Africa that could result in “severe” flooding, the United Nations humanitarian agency said. Coffee industry authorities said heavy rains may damage the crop this year.

Funguses such as Coffee Berry Disease could become rampant because of excess rain while farmers may struggle to keep up with weeding and pruning, said interim director at the Coffee Directorate, Grenville Melli.

“There is concern because flowering could be destroyed,” Melli said. “The rains would also result in crop diseases.” The meteorological department forecasts most parts of the nation will receive above-average rain that could cause floods and landslides during the October-December rainy season.

The so-called “short rains” may keep falling well into January over coffee-growing regions around Mount Kenya, it said, a normally dry month when beans should be out drying in the sun.

“Farmers need to be aware of prevalence of disease due to high moisture levels that may cause post-harvest losses,” Peter Ambenje, acting director at Kenya Meteorological Department told reporters in Nairobi.

“The onset of the rains may also interfere with harvesting,” he said, referring to the farming industry in general. Uganda exported 3.02 million 60-kilogramme bags of coffee between October and July, ranking the country as the world’s seventh-largest shipper of the beans.

Kenya shipped 616,000 bags in the period, the fourth highest amount on the continent. In Uganda, which grows mainly the robusta variety as well as arabica, the industry fears heavy rains may interfere with proper harvesting and drying of the crop.

David Muwonge, deputy executive director of the National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises said bushes blossom best after stress—several weeks without rain—followed by showers.

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