SAO PAULO, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Brazil's main CCCMG physical coffee exchange reported on Friday that trees in the world's leading exporter of the commodity entered into widespread flowering after recent rains, the first signs of the coming 2017 crop after several years of drought.
The CCCMG, nestled in the town of Varginha in southern Minas Gerais, the state that accounts for half of Brazil's annual coffee output, posted photographs of flowering trees submitted by producers from across the country's main growing regions.
Trees showed limited flowering in late September, but analysts had doubts about the viability of the fruit that would be produced by such early blooms.
The current wave of flowering across the coffee belt is considered the first major bloom of what typically amounts to two to three every spring and go on to define the size and quality of the next year's crop.
Analysts expect Brazil's 2017 crop to be smaller than the current harvest that ended in the past few weeks, due to the natural biennial cycle of coffee trees, in which larger and smaller harvests alternate from year to year.
But a good series of flowerings followed by regular rains could help minimize the downward pressure that next year's cycle is expected to have on output, according to analysts such as Gil Barabach at consultants Safras & Mercado.
"It's too early to say how big the next crop will be," he said, adding that if rains continue to be favorable, the next crop's output could be surprisingly large for a down-year in the cycle.
The price of coffee is also still attractive enough for producers to invest in fertilizers, pesticides and other yield-boosting technologies.
Current rains are certainly helping the first wave of flowering.
Widespread showers have been falling over the coffee belt with regularity early in the Southern Hemisphere's spring. Rains can be erratic at this time of year and typically only intensify from November through February.
Reuters' Agricultural Weather Dashboard forecast 7.4 millimeters (0.3 inch) of rain over the next three days in Brazil's South Minas region, which produces a quarter of the country's coffee.
The region has received 99 mm of rain over the past two months, compared with the typical 132 mm this time of year, the Dashboard showed.
Reporting by Reese Ewing, editing by G Crosse