(Corrects unit in third paragraph to reais per pound)
By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Brazilian arabica coffee beans for delivery in 2015 are selling at their deepest discounts in years versus U.S. futures as exporters race to cash in on record local prices, some betting that a deep drought has not done as much damage as feared.
Drought ravaged Brazil’s coffee-growing areas in early 2014, and a dry spell earlier this month exacerbated concerns that a poor 2015/16 crop would lead to a global deficit, causing New York ICE arabica coffee futures to double this year to their highest since early 2012.
Last week, the price of arabica coffee in local currency reached 5.519 reais per pound, the highest level in history, due to the high futures price and current weakness of the real.
The rally has triggered a wave of offers at low differentials from Brazilian exporters, U.S. importers say.
“We’re getting offers we’ve never seen before,” said Pedro Gaviña, owner of Los Angeles-based importer Gaviña & Sons, which supplies coffee to many West Coast McDonald’s franchises, calling the differentials he had seen “historical lows.”
Lower-quality beans to be delivered throughout early 2015 into August have been offered at a price equivalent to 27 cents below futures, while some medium-to-good beans for delivery in late 2015 had tumbled to 14 cents below. Comparable prices were not available.
In addition, the discount of fine cup, strictly soft beans for immediate delivery CCOFSAN-23-NYC hit its largest level in 3-1/2 years earlier this month, falling to nine cents below futures, though it has since risen to eight cents below.
Importers and roasters emphasized it was not uncommon to book Brazilian coffee months in advance at any time of year, but said aggressive selling and low differentials from Brazilian producers shows they are not concerned about a supply shortfall.
“If supply was tight, those differentials would be going up,” said Nate Hrobak, a buyer at Caribou Coffee, one of the biggest U.S. specialty chains competing with Starbucks Corp .
Differentials represent either a discount or a premium for purchasing physical coffee compared with the front-month contract on ICE Futures U.S.
It is not unusual for differentials to fall when futures prices rise, as exporters can slash prices to remain competitive without impacting bottom lines. Still, the extent of the current differential slide has contributed to roasters’ doubts about the extent of the projected supply shortfall. (Editing by Marguerita Choy)