Research Article: The dynamics of coffee production in Brazil

Date Published: July 23, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Bruno Volsi, Tiago Santos Telles, Carlos Eduardo Caldarelli, Marcia Regina Gabardo da Camara, Stephen P. Aldrich.


Coffee is a crop of significant importance for Brazilian agrobusiness. There is evidence that both the geographic distribution of coffee production, and the varieties of coffee produced, have changed throughout Brazil over the course of time. Furthermore, it appears that these developments are associated with structural changes resulting from reductions in government intervention and its effects on prices in the coffee market, which has established a new dynamic of coffee production in the country. In this context, this study’s objective is to analyze the dynamics of coffee production in Brazil, to identify the Brazilian micro-regions specializing in coffee activities, and to track how the spatial distribution of these micro-regions has varied over time. In so doing, the study aims to identify defining economic characteristics of primary coffee-producing regions. Drawing primarily on data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, the study proceeds by applying Pearson correlation, Granger causality test, location quotient, principal components, and clustering analyses to explore how, during the 1984–2015 period, significant changes occurred in the distribution of regions specializing in coffee production. States such as Paraná and São Paulo, historically important coffee producers, declined in importance, leaving only a few micro-regions in these states specialized in coffee production. During the 2014/15 biennium, 80% of the coffee-specialized micro-regions were concentrated in the states of Minas Gerais, Bahia, Rondônia, and Espírito Santo. Minas Gerais and Bahia primarily produced arabica coffee, while Rondônia specialized in conilon (robusta) coffee. Overall, coffee produced in Brazil improved in quality and value-added over this period.

Partial Text

Brazil is the largest producer and exporter of coffee in the world. According to data from the Municipal Agricultural Survey (PAM), published by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), approximately 50.3 million sixty-kilogram bags of coffee were collected in Brazil during the 2016 harvest, with 42.5 million of these bags containing arabica coffee and 7.8 million containing conilon (robusta) coffee [1]. Based on data from the Ministry of Industry, International Commerce, and Services, the revenue generated from coffee exports in 2016 totaled US$ 4.84 billion, and primary export destinations included Germany, the United States, Italy, and Japan.

In order to analyze the evolution of coffee production across the subset of Brazil’s micro-regions specialized in coffee production, data are drawn from the Municipal Agricultural Survey (PAM), published by the IBGE [1]. Since coffee production occurs over the course of biennia, each two-year grouping (low year and high year) is averaged for all calculations in order to minimize potential variation. Through this method, averages from 1984/85, 1994/95, 2004/05, and 2014/15 are generated.

Fig 1 illustrates the evolution of harvested area, production volume, and average productivity of coffee in Brazil over the 1984–2016 period. Based on these data, it is evident that, in 1984, harvested coffee area in Brazil was 2.51 million hectares, while in 2016 this value was just 1.99 million hectares, indicating a decline in area of 20.3% over this period. Nonetheless, in terms of production, 2.8 million tons of coffee were produced in 1984, while 3 million tons were produced in 2016, an increase of 6% over the period. This divergence indicates an increase in average land productivity of 33.4% between 1984 and 2016. These productivity gains are the result of technological improvements adopted by producers since 1984, increases in plants per hectare, increased use of agricultural machinery, the development of new varieties [18], and the adoption of irrigation techniques [19]. It is noteworthy that coffee exhibits seasonal variation, with years of high production followed by years of low production and vice versa. This cyclical behavior is related to climatic factors as well as to intrinsic characteristics of the product, which is a perennial [20].

Brazil did not experience substantial change in the number of micro-regions specialized in coffee production over the 1984–2015 period. Nonetheless, the country did undergo important changes in the spatial distribution of production. While the traditional coffee-growing states of Paraná and São Paulo maintained only a few specialized coffee-producing regions, the states of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo experienced dramatic growth, transforming these states into the most important coffee producers in the country. The states of Bahia and Rondônia also emerged as important contributors to national coffee production, and helped to further solidify the central role of coffee in the Brazilian agro-economy.