UPDATE 1-Brazil water supply, crops still at risk a year after epic drought

viernes 9 de enero de 2015 16:42 GYT

(Adds new grid operator rain estimate, updates coffee prices)

By Anna Flávia Rochas and Roberto Samora

SAO PAULO Jan 9 (Reuters) - Southeastern Brazil is getting some rainfall a year after a record drought started, but not enough to eliminate worries about electricity rationing, drinking-water shortages or another season of damaged export crops, meteorologists said.

Record-high temperatures and the most severe drought in at least 80 years punished southeastern Brazil last year, a region accounting for 60 percent of the country's gross domestic product. Lingering climate challenges could threaten a tepid economic recovery.

Private weather forecaster Somar warned of irregular rainfall in the center-west soy belt as well as the southeast throughout the month as an atmospheric blockage prevents a cold front from advancing over the key producing regions in the world's largest exporter of coffee, sugar, soy and beef.

That is especially worrisome in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, which produces half of Brazil's coffee. Drought there last year wiped out as much as a third of the crop in some areas, causing global arabica prices to rise 50 percent over the year even as most other commodity markets tumbled.

Scientists said coffee trees would not recover from the extreme heat and drought quickly, and forecasts pointing to below-average rain in January caused arabica prices to rise 12 percent this week.

Somar agro meteorologist Marco Antonio dos Santos expressed concern about the 2015 coffee crop, which will be harvested between May and August.   Continuación...