FEDECAFE PRESIDENT SAYS DRYNESS MAY HURT COFFEE

FEDECAFE PRESIDENT SAYS DRYNESS MAY HURT COFFEE

If the current dry weather turns into a full-fledged drought, the October 1991-to-September 1992 record Colombian coffee harvest could be affected, said Jorge Cardenas, Colombian National Coffee Federation (Fedecafe) president, Friday.

"It's a little early to tell. So far the unusually long dry season hasn't hurt the crop. But if it doesn't rain, a drought could affect the harvest and could have long-term consequences on the groves themselves," Mr. Cardenas said, speaking after the regular weekly meeting of the National Coffee Committee.So far, the dry season has not caused Fedecafe to reassess its estimate of a record 16.5 million-, 60-kilogram-bag harvest, Mr. Cardenas said. The April- to-May harvest was ripening on bushes but only represents 25 percent of Colombia's crop.

"The coffee sector has had some showers lately and is not as dry as the rest of the country," Mr. Cardenas said.

The entire country has been on energy rationing of up to six hours a day for nearly three weeks because of minimum levels in hydroelectric dams caused by an unusually long summer.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cardenas predicted the next 15 days leading up to International Coffee Organization meetings in London, April 3-10, will be ''hectic, with consultations and conversations among coffee-growing nations."

"We all agree that something has to be done to bring order to the international coffee market, but there is more than one idea of how to do it," Mr. Cardenas said.

Besides the notion of a return to a quota system, some countries - notably Brazil and Mexico - were considering a plan based on retention of a percentage of the world harvest, he said.

"The important thing is to go to London with a plan that unifies us," Mr. Cardenas said.