Your daily cup of joe may be in danger and you may not even be aware of it.
Millions of people around the world are currently taking the coffee they drink for granted. We may not be able to take advantage of this forever.
The coffee industry is built on the backs of small farmers who may be at risk due to changing environmental factors that affect their production, introduce problems and dampen the future of the coffee industry.
Rising temperatures, droughts and temperature fluctuations have made good coffee incredibly difficult to grow efficiently and have pushed costs higher for farmers and consumers. As time goes on, climate change will increasingly affect farmers, affecting the quality and price of coffee around the world.
Currently, farmers in Latin America are the main cultivators of coffee exported around the world. There are over 14 million people in Latin America today working in the coffee industry. However, small farms are being damaged by climate change, which is causing declining investment returns. Many of these farmers give up coffee to grow other crops.
How coffee production changed over time
Coffee plants require very specific growing conditions to properly grow tasty coffee beans. Climate change has had a clear impact on coffee growers and has shrunk the growing areas and made it much harder to grow coffee.
Global temperatures continue to rise between 1.5 Celsius to 4.5 Celsius per year during the warmest months. This results in drought and then periods of extreme rainfall. This makes breeding coffee much harder, especially for smaller farms that cannot afford to maintain their farms with these extreme fluctuations.
These small farms will also lose arable land each year. Rising temperatures will reduce the area suitable for growing coffee by up to 50% by 2050.
Temperature and precipitation are some of the most important factors for good coffee crops. Arabica coffee plants are extremely sensitive to rising temperatures, especially during their flowering and fruiting phases.
For arabica plants, temperatures as high as 30 degrees Celsius can cause permanent damage to the plant, reducing growth, resulting in yellowing, loss of leaves and reduced crop.
Robusta beans, on the other hand, can withstand higher temperatures better, but suffer from lower temperatures.
The rising average and maximum temperatures and the fluctuating distribution of precipitation will affect coffee production more and more as time goes on. In addition, there are more frequent weather events in tropical areas that could wipe out the coffee industry except in the long run.
Climate change is affecting the coffee industry
These changes are already affecting the coffee industry, and in a few years, the coffee industry may no longer look the same as it does today. Many small farmers have already lost or are at risk of losing their farms due to low yields and low income.
This will affect all parts of the supply chain and ultimately affect consumers. There will be less high quality or gourmet coffee for sale and the things that are for sale may be of lower quality. It will also put upward pressure on coffee prices worldwide. Do you hate paying $ 5 for a latte at a coffee shop, because it can be a lot more in a few years.
There will be many losers because of these changes and it will directly affect you. There will be thousands of farmers whose livelihoods and income depend on the climate.
Climate change is affecting arabica coffee beans
Proper temperature and precipitation are essential for high quality and high yield coffee beans. Because Arabica coffee is native to the tropical highlands, where there are historically low fluctuations in temperature and precipitation, crop phenology does not take into account climate change.
Higher air temperatures during flowering, which occur in drought or dry seasons, can cause coffee flowers to be interrupted and result in a lower yield. Lack of water during cultivation also has many other harmful effects on the arabica coffee plant.
As a result, while the coffee plants can withstand drought, the fruit quality of the coffee drops sharply. Due to climate change, dry seasons will be even drier and precipitation will be more sporadic. Arabica coffee will suffer and the ideal places to grow will steadily decline year after year.
Do not be surprised if arabica coffee beans continue to grow in price as climate change continues.
Climate change is affecting robust coffee beans
Robusta coffee, unlike arabica coffee, is native to lowland forests in the Congo River basin. They are still affected by climate change, but in a different way. Because they grow in a dense equatorial rainforest, they need abundant rainfall and require cooler temperatures.
High temperatures and dry air can damage the plants and reduce yield and quality. Because it is native to a rainforest, these coffee plants are very susceptible to cold. Temperatures below 5 degrees Celsius will kill a robust coffee plant.
Climate change also results in colder winters because it disrupts and distorts weather systems.
Problems with coffee production
Each growing zone is affected differently due to changes in temperatures and weather events. Over the next forty years, there will be a net loss in the total area suitable for coffee production. Here is what is happening in each growing region, and then I will go into strategies that farmers can use to try to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Problems with climate change in Guatemala and how it affects coffee
In Guatemala, there is a predicted decline in rainfall during the critical growth period for coffee beans. In July, August and September, the rain has been steadily falling.
This is paired with larger amounts of hurricanes and other weather events that cause devastating losses in coffee crops.
El Nino conditions are also leaving drought in eastern Guatemala, where many coffee growers live. As stated above, the quality of arabica coffee beans will be negatively affected by lack of rainfall and drought.
Problems with climate change in Brazil and how it affects coffee
Brazil is one of the largest exporters of coffee and they have experienced climate change due to global warming. In 2050, Brazil’s average annual temperatures are expected to rise by 4 degrees Celsius in the summers and by 2 – 5 degrees Celsius in the winters.
This is combined with increased rainfall of around 20% due to extreme weather events such as hurricanes.
It is predicted that Brazil will lose about 33% of the cultivation area in Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais, two major coffee-growing states in Brazil. They have researched to find any way to prevent this from happening, but there have been no practical implementations of coffee adaptation or coffee limiting strategies.
Problems with climate change in Vietnam and how it affects coffee
Vietnam is expected to increase by 1.4 – 4.2 degrees Celsius by 2090, and the amount of hot days is expected to increase by 23% to 55%. So most days in Vietnam will be above 25 degrees Celsius.
In the highlands, where coffee is normally grown, this can affect the robusta coffee normally grown there. However, Robusta coffee is more resistant to hot temperatures.
They also predict more rainfall in the wet seasons and a decrease in rainfall in the dry season. This is also due to extreme weather events from Juno to October. They predict serious consequences for water resources such as rivers and groundwater. The expected increase and demand for irrigation causes these resources to dry up and cause strain on farmers and the environment.
The future of the coffee industry
Many strategies have been put in place to help farmers adapt to the changing climate. Two of the most important mitigation strategies are to reduce the contribution of coffee production to greenhouse gas emissions and the collection of carbon in shade trees or forest areas on coffee farms.
However, coffee farmers can only do so much. Everyone must do their part to stop climate change. If you want the coffee industry to survive and continue to flourish, you should do your part. And it’s not just the coffee industry, many other industries around the world are affected by climate change.
Ask yourself, what are you doing to prevent this?