Coffee catastrophe

You may think where have I been for the past few months, I was away from home for work, so I got no chance doing anything in the kitchen. I miss my kitchen so much! Since I’m not cooking for month I though I could share article I read or food I had tasted in Penang. This evening I flip back to old news paper dated 11 May 2015, this article were talking about coffee in thread. Article written by Sam Jones, Guardian News & Media.

Cultivation of the arabica coffee plants. staple of daily caffeine fixes and economic lifeline for millions of small farmers, is under threat from climate change as rising temperatures and new rainfall patterns limit the areas where it can be grown, researchers have warned.

Arabic, which has long been prized for its delicate and aromatic flavour, accounts for 70% of the global coffee market share. But it is particularly sensitive to temperature increases, which reduce its growth, flowering and fruiting and make it more susceptible to coffee pests.

With global temperatures forecast to increase by 2°C to 2.5°C over the next few decades, a report predicts that some of the major coffee producing countries will suffer serious losses, reducing supplies and driving up prices. The joint study, published by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) under the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), models the global suitability of arabica cultivation to see how production will be affected in 2050.

It predicts that Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia and Colombia – which between them produce 65% of the global market share of arabica – will find themselves experiencing several losses unless steps are taken to change the genetics of the crops as well as the manner and areas in which it is grown.

Dr. Peter Lderach, a CCAFS climate change specialist and co-author of the report, said that although some countries would be able to mitigate the “massive impact” of climate change by simply moving their coffee to higher, cooler areas, it was not an option for everyone.

“If you look at the countries that will lose out most, they’re countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honguras, which have steep hills and volcanoes,” he said. “As you move up, there’s less and less area. But if you look at some South American or east African countries, you have plateaus and lots of areas at higher altitudes, so they will lose much less.”

Without new strategies, says the study, Brazil alone can expect its current arabica production to drop 25% by 2050. “In Brazil, they produce coffee on the plains and don’t have any mountains so they can’t move up,” said Laderach. “What they would have to do is look for adaptation strategies. This study shows that we urgently need to start breeding new varieties and adapting growing practices, like putting in shade to decrease temperatures. But the problem in Brazil is it’s very mechanised and if you put trees there, they won’t be able to bring the machines in.” However, he said even those countries with higher altitudes were likely to find themselves struggling to make up for lost land because the needs of coffee cultivation would have to be weighed up against the preservation of forests and nature reserves. Although Indonesia, which is expected to see its arabica cultivation areas cut by up to 37%, could move production to higher areas, they tend to be home to indigenous communities and biodiverse environments.

“If you don’t have good, rigorous laws in place, people are just going to start chopping down the forest, which would then jeopardise all the downstream benefits that people receive, such as water and carbon sequestration,” said Laderach.

Coffee, the second-most traded commodity after oil, is grown by as estimated 25 million farmers in more than 60 tropical countries, making it a key source of revenue for many developing nations. Laderach said that failure to find new and better ways to grow arabica would have serious consequences for both human and the environment.

“If you look at Burundi or Uganda or Nicaragua, they depend very heavily on coffee, so they’d miss all that income for the development of their countries,” he said. “Environmentally, because it’s an agro-forestry system, it brings a lot of benefits like biodiversity and soil and water conservation, and erosion control.” Although developing hardier coffee strains, planting more grow other crops would help compensate for the losses wrought by climate change, said Laderach, there were no quick or easy solutions. “Breeding new varieties takes years. Coffee systems are not like arable crops, where this year you do beans and the next year do cassava,” he said

“It takes three to five years before you call even harvest coffee for the first time. It’s a long lead time, which is why we’re pointing out that it’s very crucial to start developing strategies now.” Laderach said the challenges ahead were so great that they demanded the combined efforts of farmers, scientists, governments and businesses. Another possibility is that arabica production could be shifted not upwards but further eastwards, to Africa, Asia and the Pacific. But while such a move could revolutionise the coffee industry, it is far from risk-free.

Dr. Tim Schilling, executive director of World Coffee Research, which is funded by the global coffee industry, has his doubts:”There’s competition for land among other cash crops in Indonesia and the Pacific, and it is unknown whether Africa could build the necessary capacity in terms of politics, business climate, supporting institutions and infrastructure.” Schilling believes technology may yet be the best bet for coffee growers, suppliers and drinkers. “For me, it all says brace yourselves for higher prices. The only glimmer on the horizon is the ability to change the coffee plant so that it produces decent coffee and yields under a climate-constrained environment.”

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2 thoughts on “Coffee catastrophe

  1. I did miss you. Glad to see you back. Excellent and interesting information about coffee production. Let us hope the planet and its people pay attention to what is happening.

    1. Hi Jovina, I been miss my blog and all the writing so much. Will definitely get back to the kitchen soon for new adventure. I really can’t wait for it.
      Indeed, the coffee production industry do need attention from people too.

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