While we cannot imagine our mornings without a cup of this delicious drink, coffee might soon become a thing of luxury!
Between 80 and 90 percent of the world’s 25 million coffee farmers are smallholders who are among those most exposed to climate change. They generally live and work in the ‘bean belt’ which comprises around 70 mostly developing countries, including Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Indonesia. For several of these countries, the industry is central to their economy.
As a result of the global warming that threatens the crops, and the historically low prices that are driving farmers out of the business, experts warn that we might soon run out of coffee, if serious changes aren’t made.
A report by The Climate Institute warns that in case global warming continues on its current trajectory, coffee could become extinct. Researchers said that by 2050, the amount of suitable coffee farmland is expected to have halved due to rising temperatures, pests, and fungi.
What’s more, they expect wild coffee to be wiped from the face of the planet by the year 2080. The disappearance of this valuable plant will affect about 120 million people worldwide whose livelihoods depend on its beans.
The report added:
“More and more extreme weather events in major coffee-producing regions seem set to create supply shortages, and hotter conditions will impair flavor and aroma. Even instant coffee is likely to be hit hard in a world of 3°C or more.”
Realizing the gravity of the issue, experts are seeking businesses to invest more to help coffee growers to get new equipment and plant new crops. Coffee producers in Peru start looking for another source of income due to the temperature excesses, crippling market prices, and humidity.
Pests and diseases also contribute to the reduced harvests of lower-quality beans, and the farmers of the Arabica beans are abandoning their farms or turn to producing other crops, like sugar cane, which is more resilient.
After a period of unusually high temperatures and rains in 2012, Central American crops were infected with a wage of Coffee Leaf Rust, resulting in 350,000 laborers in the region being put out of work in the region.
As a result, farmers in these areas have turned to the catimor variety, which is resistant to the Rust. On the other hand, it is vulnerable to the brown eye fungus, which has also become more common due to rising temperatures.
Peru’s largest Fairtrade co-operative, Norandino, representing around 7,000 farmers, stated that extreme rainfall several years ago destroyed crops and caused buildings to crumple in the northwest region of Piura. As their headquarters was flooded with water, its members fear that the region might become uninhabitable.
Farmers are also forced to develop the delicate coffee plant on cooler, higher land since the increasing annual average temperatures make large paths of ground unfitting.
This could lead to severe environmental consequences. The increased deforestation could additionally clear out new areas, reducing the quality of the coffee. On the other hand, lower production volumes of coffee can, in turn, increase the prices.
Dr. Tim Schilling, director of the World Coffee Research Institute, explains that as the supply of high-quality coffee is severely threatened by climate change, diseases and pests, land pressure, and labor shortages, the demand for coffee is rising. In some coffee areas, temperatures have already risen enough to impact quality, so the logical result is that the prices will rise, especially for the highest quality coffees.
Moreover, a report by eighty scientists at Kew Gardens also indicates that coffee is at risk of running out by the end of the century, due to climate change and intensive farming.
Dr. Aaron Davis, a coffee researcher at Kew and one of the report’s authors, explained:
“In Ethiopia and all over the world really, if we do nothing there will be less coffee, it will probably taste worse and will cost more.”
Yet, Kew’s researchers pointed out that if action is taken, this situation can be avoided. The relocation of coffee-growing areas, as well as forest conservation and replanting, could lead to a substantial growth in the area suitable for growing coffee in Ethiopia.
Dr. Davis added that these measures could mitigate some of the negative effects and increase the coffee-growing area by four-and-a-half-times.
Catherine David, the Fairtrade Head of Commercial Partnerships, argues that the UK public ‘really expect businesses to be paying a fair price for their coffee – this isn’t a nice-to-have for them’. She adds that coffee sales have grown and it has become a well-known product, so it might be a thing of luxury unless we invest in it now.
David added that’ we could conceivably get to a point where coffee is no longer available for, say, £1.50 at Greggs, but becomes a premium product for only those who can afford to enjoy it.’
In case we don’t become more aware of this crisis we are facing, David believes we would be ‘ pretty scandalized’ that brands, retailers and coffee shops that we are buying their coffee from aren’t doing more.’
Also, Mario Cerutti, a spokesperson from the coffee producer Lavazza, acknowledged the ‘dramatically serious’ effects of climate change on the industry.