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Climate change is already having an impact on a variety of different food and drink products around the world. And that is not likely to change for the better any time soon. If you already know the basics of coffee beans and coffee bean production, you will know that it can be quite a volatile crop. And that it is possible that diseases or other imperfect conditions can cause big problems for the production of coffee. Here is how climate change is affecting the future of coffee bean production and the changes that may be needed to combat this.
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How Climate Change is Affecting the Future of Coffee Bean Production
The change of temperature is going to make a big difference, and some of the estimates paint a bleak future for coffee.
What Climate Change May Mean For Coffee Beans
We rely on certain climates to give us the ideal conditions for growing coffee beans. Usually, coffee is grown in highland regions with tropical temperatures. But if the estimates regarding climate change are true then it is very possible that the areas that are suitable could half in the coming years.
The conditions being imperfect might just impact the flavor of coffee. But it is also possible that there will be much more grave consequences and that the coffee crops may fail.
In countries such as Nicaragua, Brazil, and Mexico, as well as parts of Africa and India, coffee farmers tend to run small businesses. And these could be devastated by the changes.
Farmers may need to change their methods. And in some of the poor countries that produce a lot of the world’s coffee this might not be possible.
The temperature rise may mean that the optimal locations to grow coffee are higher. An altitude of 1,600M may become the perfect height in countries like El Salvador, ruling out some existing plantations. And also meaning there aren’t many places where coffee can be grown.
Is Robusta the Answer?
Arabica coffee beans still make up the majority of the market. Around 70% of the global production is in this species. However, there have been examples of locations turning to robusta due to the fact that the conditions can be suboptimal and the plant will still grow.
Arabica species start to ripen too fast and the quality is impacted when the mean temperature is over 24 degrees C. If the heat is regularly over 30 degrees then the plants can be badly damaged. And this means crops can fail.
Robusta coffee (Coffea canephora var Robusta) doesn’t have as much of a reputation for nuanced taste and character. Plus it is higher in caffeine. It tends to be consumed in developing countries, partially due to the fact that it is cheaper.
Robusta is an option for growth in some places that will be worst impacted by the changes. But it is an imperfect solution, as this will usually mean compromising on the taste. It is also possible to lose robusta crops to the higher temperatures. So this is not going to fix the problems in some scenarios.
Other Potential Fixes
Some creative thinking is required. A lot of the biggest coffee buyers have already hedged their bets, buying coffee from suppliers all over the world to partially protect themselves from the impacts of climate change.
Technology could also be the answer. It is possible to grow coffee in a variety of settings, and technology may make this more viable. For example, vertical farming and greenhouse farming, or even hydroponics, could provide an answer.
The current farmers will have to adapt. But the fact that currently the costs are incredibly prohibitive means that it is not necessarily a solution.
One clever technique that could be used is planting shielding trees. The idea is that these trees will grow around the plants and shield them from direct sunlight. This means that the temperatures will remain more stable within this shade. And it is possible that we will see farmers in developing countries turn to this.
It is in the interests of many countries to adapt and help the poorer, coffee-producing countries to adapt, too. For instance, in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, coffee consumption is quite high. If they are able to help coffee farmers now, it is likely that they will continue to experience reasonable pricing and plenty of supply in years to come.
Changes Needed Now
There are changes required straight away. Coffee trees are perennial and the average span of a plantation is 25-30 years, so with the changes in climate already being experienced it is truly crucial that we address these as soon as we can.
Many coffee farmers are facing plenty of challenges, and being small business owners, they may not have the resources needed to make the changes. It is likely that big businesses who rely on the smaller farmers will need to invest to make a difference to the future of coffee and safeguard the best varietals for decades to come.