No. 539.
Mr. Baker to Mr. Evarts.

No. 37.]

Sir: As coffee ranks as the leading staple of Venezuela, and as the abundance or shortness of the crop grown here not only affects the business interests of this country very seriously, but also enters as a factor of more or less moment into an important branch of the world’s trade, I have thought it might possibly be of some practical use to send such general and proximate information as I have been able to gather respecting the Venezuelan coffee crop of last year and this.

I will premise by saying that, as I am informed, this crop is gathered in Venezuela for the most part during the months of December and January, ripening in some localities earlier, in others later, according to altitude and probably other physical conditions.

The crop of last year—that is, the one gathered mainly during December and January last—was, I am informed, to a considerable extent a failure, owing to unseasonable rains during or about the time of gathering the crop. I am told that this failure did not consist in a shortness of quantity, but in an impairment of the quality, which materially had a damaging effect upon the price, and that, in the aggregate, the extent of failure on this account may be set down at about 25 per cent.
As to the crop of this year—that is, the one to be gathered mostly in December and January next—I am informed that it promises so far to be good as to quality, but short as to quantity, owing, I understand, to insufficient rains early in the season. It is said that in some localities the deficiency will be very great, in others much less so, and that for the whole republic the falling off for the reason stated will probably be about 20 per cent.

These approximations are of course rather vague, and I only give them for what they are worth. In this connection I will add an editorial [Page 940] from La Opinion Nacional of the 31st ultimo, in relation to the present coffee crop of Brazil. This will be excusable, inasmuch as the information, purporting to come from Brazil, is reproduced here with editorial comments that may be worthy of attention. I translate the editorial in question, as follows:


A friend has communicated to us advices from Santos, in a letter hearing date of June 10, in which very judicious estimates are made respecting the present crop of Brazil, which being judged in Europe according to the appearance presented by the flowering, had been believed to be enormous, and even to amount to more than five millions of sacks of 60 kilograms each.

This statement, which is undoubtedly erroneous, has, notwithstanding, influenced the tendency to a fall in the price of coffee; but now that the reality of the probable exportations from that source has already become palpable, these being so weighty in commerce, it is’ evident that the tendency will be to an advance, and that in the end coffee will bring remunerative prices.

According to the letter alluded to, the exaggeration is two millions of sacks of 60 kilograms each, inasmuch as the plantations have suffered much from droughts, and from the general practice of bad cultivation, under pretext of economy,

It also appears certain that some of the great speculators in Europe propose to play for a decline in prices, availing themselves of exaggerated reports in order to derive profit from the difficulty of receiving authentic proofs from the remote places of production.

But the matter is already clearly understood, and in proof of what we have said may be seen a letter from Rio de Janeiro, of date June 1, published by the Diario de Avisor.

It says, in conclusion:

“In short, then, we believe that the exportable quantity of coffee from July, 1878, to July, 1879, will not exceed 3,200,000 sacks, and to reach even that it will be necessary to take 4,000,000 sacks as a point of departure (a very respectable figure) and afterward to subtract:

“Ten per cent. deficit for the drought 400,000
“Old coffee which is not sold 300,000
“Difference in lower Sierra 100,000
“(Exportable) balance 3,200,000

“The entries of the first month after July will be abundant, for the small proprietors have need of money, and as they have railroads, they can send their coffee to the city promptly; but the accumulation of coffee produces bad account sales, and the entries very soon become proportionate to the necessities of the market.

“In short, it is not probable that the quantity of exportable coffee much exceeds that of the past year, nor that the price will be lower.”

I only remark that the same cause, viz, too little rain, is assigned for the alleged impairment of the present coffee crop of Brazil, and the prospective one of Venezuela, while too much rain is said to have been the cause of injury to the last crop of the latter country.

I have, & c.,