Coffee to become next climate change victim?

Red coffee beans in Guatemala mountains La Democratia

Already threatening a range of crops, the next victim of climate change might well be coffee plants according to a new report by The Climate Institute.

The institute states that over half of the world’s coffee supply could be affected by up to 50 per cent by 2050.

Commissioned by Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand, the report emphasizes that warming temperatures pose significant threats to farmland across all emission scenarios.

In addition to disappearing land the report also highlights the threat of diseases such as coffee rust, as well as additional pests such as the coffee berry borer.

Coffee plants require precise environments with the perfect precipitation in order to survive and thrive.

The report has also stated that climate change is already impacting the coffee industry in important coffee growing countries such as Tanzania, where production has already fallen by 137kg per hectare for every 1°C rise in minimum temperature.

Since the 1960s the country has felt a 50 per cent decline in production.

In Central America farms have already come under attack from coffee rust, with half of the crop lost over the continent in 2012. Guatemala itself lost 85 per cent of its crop in the same year.

Scientists predict that Nicaragua could be the greatest afflicted country, losing the vast majority of suitable land by 2050.

Coffee Beans

Taking matters a step further, scientists also predict that wild coffee plants could be extinct by 2080 – which would have a massive impact on the genetic diversity of farmed coffee.

Doug Welsh, the vice president of coffee at Peet’s coffee and a member of the board of World Coffee Research said: “It’s anecdotal, but I don’t know any coffee farmers who don’t believe that their weather, and with it their disease and productivity issues, have changed dramatically over the last decade.”

Haley Drage, a spokesperson from Starbucks said that supporting coffee growers, “becomes even more important when farmers experience fluctuating weather conditions that are the result of a warmer climate,” she said. “We believe that with the proper vigilance, as well as a long-term approach, we can help farmers manage the variables that come with these new dynamics.”

There are reportedly a variety of strategies that coffee growers could implement to combat the threat of climate change – although the vast majority are adaptive, rather than preventative.

One measure is to create a gene bank to create genetic diversity in Arabica coffee, which is a plan being implemented by one project.

Another adaption is to move farmers to higher ground or away from the equator, despite it taking coffee plants several years to enter bean production.

John Connor, chief executive of the Climate Institute said that “there are several things we coffee drinkers can do to assist” and that brands should “provide a fair return to farmers and their communities while helping to build their capacity to adapt to climate change.”

Asian Farmer Pick Coffee Bean

Andy has worked as a freelance journalist for a number of years and has been published in some of the UK’s top newspapers. He is now the editor Commercial Waste Magazine and contributes to a large selection of headlines and blog articles on the site.

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