Agri Business

Climate change takes the zing out of coffee

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 19, 2018 Published on January 25, 2016

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Yields hit, land under cultivation comes down even as global demand remains strong

Climate change is proving to be a threat to coffee production. Higher temperatures, long droughts punctuated by intense rainfall, resilient pests and plant diseases – all of which are associated with climate change – have dramatically reduced the supply of coffee in recent years, noted speakers and scientists at the India International Coffee Festival.

Coffee price impact

Speakers spoke of how climate change could drive up coffee prices in the near term. Most land suitable for Arabica production would be reduced by 50 per cent by 2050.

They noted that climate change effects on the coffee market resulted in less abundant crops, reduction in green coffee quality, market price volatility and less profitable investments. This is despite the fact that the demand for coffee has been growing globally.

India's coffee woes

Higher temperatures, and water scarcity, or even excessive rain, have turned out to be regular phenomena in most coffee-producing regions of the world.

“In India, one has to deal with temperature increase. There is more unpredictable rain, and reduction and skewed distribution of rainfall. We also have to deal with increased pest and disease infestation – leaf rust, the white stem borer and coffee berry borer – which is proving to be a problem,” said Mario Cerutti, Partner at Lavazza, an Italian coffee brand.

A long-term increase in the number of extreme and unseasonal rainfall events has contributed to lower crop yields that are threatening the livelihood of coffee growers. For example, between 2002 and 2011, Indian coffee production declined by nearly 30 percent.

Additionally, global warming has expanded the habitat and thus the range and damage of the coffee berry borer, a grazing predator of coffee plants. This pest is placing additional stresses on all coffee crops, as is coffee rust, a devastating fungus that previously did not survive the cool mountain weather.

Livelihood matters

Stating that the livelihood of around 100 million people worldwide depend on coffee, Cerutti said it is a key commodity in more than 70 developing countries. He pointed out that if climate change was not addressed, the coffee sector and the livelihoods of all stakeholders would stand compromised.

He added that some of the new techniques introduced by young coffee growers and the importance of a sustainable approach would benefit local communities.

However, Brazil, the world’s biggest coffee grower, responsible for about 40 percent of global production, caused the most froth amongst international market traders, as was evidenced at the meet.

The South American country’s south-eastern State of Minas Gerais, which produces about 25 per cent of the country’s coffee crop, has experienced precipitation that was about 10 percent of normal and temperatures well above average.

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Published on January 25, 2016
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