Climate Change could Kill Coffee

That’s a pretty alarmist headline. I know. But read this article from an environmental scientist. And weep. Mourn. Gnash your teeth. And then propose a solution… Coffee production isn’t going to die any time soon – but coffee prices are going to keep going up.

“But several coffee-growing regions have experienced a run of poor seasons, which is attributed to drought and unpredictable rainfall.

This has occurred across Central and South America, Africa and Asia.

Poor coffee seasons, coupled with the continual rise in coffee consumption, have led to demand exceeding supply and an increase in prices.

It is not yet clear whether these occurrences of drought and unpredictable rainfall are associated with climate change.

But several studies predict that the extent of cool, moist coffee-growing regions will indeed diminish due to climate change.

In the pursuit of favourable climate, plantations will also be forced further up mountainsides, which obviously has its limitations in terms of both land availability and the ability of farmers to migrate.

Like most of the globe’s resources, pressure is put on coffee supply when populations and demand expand. But with increasing demand and higher prices comes new suppliers to the market.”

CBS is a little bit more extreme in its treatment of the effects of climate change – running a headline: Climate Change Pushing Coffee to Extinction

The Wall Street Journal reports that heavy rain in Central America – home to some of my favourite coffees and 10% of the world’s coffee harvest – is threatening coffee production.

Here’s a few paras from that story from behind the paywall (via Sprudge).

“Félix Regalado, who cultivates coffee on a small farm in Honduras, the largest coffee producer in Central America, and thousands of other coffee farmers are about to start harvesting the bulk of Central America’s crop at a time when supplies are tight. Stockpiles of arabica coffee in exchange-certified warehouses have shrunk nearly 60% since September 2009.

Big coffee roasters were looking to this upcoming harvest in Central and South America for relief from three years of lackluster global production. However, the severe rains, which have already claimed scores of lives across the region, are dashing such hopes.

“The coffee is falling from the plants, both ripe and unripe berries,” said Mr. Regalado. The berries contain the beans that are cleaned and roasted to make coffee. Not only is the actual coffee damaged, but weather conditions make it difficult for farmers to harvest and get the beans to storage terminals or ports.

“When it rains like this, we can’t cut,” Mr. Regalado said. “And when it’s slippery, we have to transport on horseback.”

Things aren’t looking good for coffee production. And while the market is probably overcrowded with Fairtrade people producing quantity but not quality anyway, there are enough non-discerning people out there that this means those of us who care about the taste of our cup, not just the ethics, can get the best of both worlds…

Here’s my solution. Other than being more environmentally friendly and thinking about buying sustainable coffee… why not make a Microloan to a coffee farmer interested in sustainability. There are currently 29 loans returned on a search for “coffee” on the site. I made a couple last week. You should do it too. I’m going to look into having some sort of coffee fund on Kiva. You could also make a donation to’s FairCrack program.

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