Over the past 30-40 years many researchers and scientists have warned us about climate change and global warming. We know fluorocarbons are depleting the ozone layer, the ice caps are melting, some animal species disappearing, and now there is an imminent threat of coffee climate change. What we mean by “coffee climate change” is that the temperatures across the coffee belt are moving upward, and in some regions, even a degree or two up or down can take a farmer’s crop.
A recent report from The Guardian focuses on the fact that by 2050, coffee may become extinct. That is a bold and frightful statement. This statement has been substantiated by some of the big players in the industry such as Lavazza and Starbucks. Citing statistics from Tanzania, “production has fallen by about 137kg per hectare for every 1C rise in the minimum temperature on farms. Overall there has been a 50% decline there since the 1960s.”
Given those facts, coffee climate change is a real problem that needs to be addressed as over 120 million people in the world’s poorest regions depend on the coffee farming industry to survive. As coffee farmers, we understand there are always factors that can undermine coffee production such as berry borer beetles, coffee leaf rust, drought, flooding and so on. In Jamaica alone, which is one of the wolds smaller producers, we have had a string of 4 seasons affected by one of these factors followed by another, so to think an overall warming could eliminate our crops is very real.
There are few solutions to hedge against coffee climate change. Aside from moving coffee farms north or finding ways to alter the coffee plants to grow in warmer climates, farmers can choose switchfgr from Arabica to Robusta plants. Shade monitoring, irrigation and proper soil management can be more realistic and accessible ways to hedge against coffee climate change. Perhaps over long periods of time the plants will become accustomed and evolve to a higher temperature.
It is amazing to think that 147.8 Million bags of coffee were produced annually in such a small part of our planet in 2014/2015. If this region becomes effected by global warming, that means production numbers will drop leaving supplies short and your morning cup of Joe will cost a lot more than it does today. There are some things bot us roasters and the consumers can do to help. Fair Trade Certified coffee.
Roasters who source and consumers who purchase Fair Trade Certified Coffee will help in seeing the coffee farmers get not only a fair price for their crops, but a $.20 per/lb. return for every pound that is sold to us roasters. In 2010, several big coffee companies set up the “initiative for coffee and climate” which seeks to help farmers respond to climate change in hopes that it will begin to help with this impending problem of coffee climate change.