Vietnamese coffee exporters are hunting for beans to meet loading commitments as a small number of farmers and buying agents hold onto stocks while prices eased nearly 2 percent in the past week, traders said on Tuesday. Scant supplies available on domestic markets raised the risk of more coffee export delays from Vietnam, the world’s second-largest producer after Brazil. The supply picture is expected to remain tight until Vietnam starts its next harvest in November. Traders said delays of coffee deliveries from local suppliers plus shipment cancellations, or washouts, may have risen already above the 40,000 tonnes as of early last week.
There were no fresh estimates for this week and Vietnam has no official trade or shipping body to calculate the size of delays or defaults for coffee deliveries. ”It is now the hunt for coffee, not ‘the purchase’ as usual anymore,” said a trader in Lam Dong, Vietnam’s second-biggest growing province. Many cash-strapped farmers had sold all their coffee after the earlier harvest, while farmers with better financing and buying agents remain reluctant to sell, said a Vietnamese industry expert in Daklak, the country’s top growing province. ”They are holding less than 20 percent of what they produced, but even so, the number of these stakeholders is very small,” he said from Buon Ma Thuot, Daklak’s capital. The Central Highlands, comprising five provinces which also include Dak Nong, Gia Lai and Kontum, produces 80 percent of Vietnam’s total coffee. PREMIUMS WIDEN Indicative domestic prices eased to 47.8-48.1 million dong ($2,319-$2,334) per tonne in the Central Highlands on Tuesday, down 1.7 percent from 48.7-48.9 million dong a week ago, tracking losses on London’s robusta futures market on Monday. September robusta coffee ended $26 lower at $2,250 a tonne on Monday, tracking weakness on the arabica market as the risk of frost in Brazil receded. Indicative offers for Vietnamese robusta showed premiums to September contract widened to $170-$180 a tonne on Tuesday from $100 a week ago, but no trading was seen, traders said. The premiums priced robusta grade 2, 5 percent black and broken at $2,420-$2,430 a tonne on free-on-board basis, down from $2,454 last Tuesday. ”There is still coffee available but sellers said they could sell only when the futures prices drop below $2,000 a tonne,” a trader at a foreign company in Ho Chi Minh City said. ”Some farmers talked about selling if prices jump back to 50,000 dong (per kg), but their available stock is already too small,” the Buon Ma Thuot-based expert said. He estimated exporters and farmers were holding a combined 70,000 to 80,000 tonnes, or 1.17-1.33 million 60-kg bags, of coffee, part of which would be retained for blending with fresh beans from the next 2011/2012 harvest. As such, the carryover stock could be smaller than in early this crop year, when an estimated 1 million bags had been brought forward from the 2009/2010 crop. Vietnam’s coffee crop year lasts between October and September. Foreign traders have forecast the next harvest to produce 23-24 million bags, well above an estimate of 18 million bags by the Vietnam Coffee and Cocoa Association. ($1=20,608 dong) REUTERS SV VK125