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Colombia's 2017 coffee output could fall due to cloud cover

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's coffee crop may fall below 14 million 60-kg bags this year due to cloud cover that slows the flowering of trees in the main producing regions of the Andean nation, the head of the coffee growers' federation said on Friday.

    Colombia, the world's third largest coffee producer after Brazil and Vietnam, recorded a harvest of 14.2 million bags in 2016, the highest in the last 23 years. For this year, a harvest of at least 14.5 million bags was expected.

    "I'm very afraid for the second half of the year," Roberto Velez, head of the National Coffee Growers Federation, told Reuters. "I think we're going to be under 14 million bags."

    Colombia's coffee harvest fell 3 percent in the first half compared with the same period in 2016, to 6.37 million bags, mainly due to rainfall and cloudiness in the producing areas.

    "It's not the water, it's the cloudiness that prevents the sun getting in, without sunshine the plants don't bloom and don't bear fruit," he said.

    Between 2009 and 2012, Colombia, recognized for its mild and high quality coffees, failed to meet its coffee production target due to heavy rains and a fall in the harvest due to a coffee plantation renewal program.

    Colombia's coffee plantations cover some 930,000 hectares of land and about 560,000 families depend on coffee growing for their livelihood.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Helen Murphy; Editing by Tom Brown)