BRAZIL WARMING UP TO QUOTAS, COLOMBIA COFFEE CHIEF SAYS

BRAZIL WARMING UP TO QUOTAS, COLOMBIA COFFEE CHIEF SAYS

Brazil is showing signs of accepting the idea of a new International Coffee Agreement with export quotas, said Colombia's chief coffee official Jorge Cardenas.

''A month ago Brazil continued to be impermeable to the concept of a new quotas pact, but now at least they are debating the possibility," said Mr. Cardenas, president of the Colombian National Coffee Federation."We have to give them (Brazil) time," he told a press conference. Mr. Cardenas announced a "full-blown diplomatic and commercial offensive" by Colombian coffee industry and government authorities "to promote the new pact in the weeks leading up to the early-April International Coffee Organization meeting in London."

"It's the logical alternative to the continuing situation of declining prices," Mr. Cardenas said.

However, he was not optimistic about any immediate recovery in prices. ''Prices continue to be so insufficient that what we are starting to see is fatigue in the worldwide production situation. Growers around the world cannot afford to take care of their groves, use expensive fertilizers or renew their bushes. As a result harvests everywhere, except Colombia, will be down in following years," he said.

Thanks to subsidies from the National Coffee Fund, Mr. Cardenas said, Colombia expects a record harvest of up to 17 million 60-kilogram bags in 1991-92 (October-September). As well, Colombia has increased its share of the world coffee market from 16.8 percent in 1989, when the ICO quota accord was dismantled, to 21 percent in 1990-91, he said.

The Coffee Fund, built up over the year through coffee taxes, is managed jointly by Fedecafe and the government. Its subsidies to growers and exporters have nevertheless depleted the Fund by around $700 million in the last 2 years and, theoretically, could continue to shore up the Colombian coffee industry only for another 2 years, Mr. Cardenas said. "We are probably in a better position than other countries to succeed in a free market panorama. But we support what we think is the best solution to a faster recuperation of prices, and that is a new quota pact," he said.