Coffee, Climate and People

Coffee, Climate and People

Coffee, Climate and People

I have decided to attend one of the session they organized that is related to Coffee and Climate. I am not a coffee lover but I am curious of how climate change may impacts coffee’s life-cycle?

I decided to grab some of their booklets to read. Based on Coffee Barometer 2014 report prepared by Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (HIVOS), coffee is ranked as one of the world’s most valuable agricultural commodities with 80% of coffee produced in the world is traded internationally amounts to USD 33.4 billion and retail sales may sum up to USD 100 billion.

Apparently, Arabica and Robusta (please learn the difference) are two most commonly produced coffee beans in the world where Arabica are commonly grown at high altitudes in Latin America [including Brazil] and Northeast Africa [accounts for 60% of world production] and Robusta, commonly grown in humid areas at low altitudes in Asia, Western and Central Africa and Brazil [currently encompasses up to 40% of world production]. Four countries dominated the global coffee production, Brazil (35%), Vietnam (15%, world’s largest Robusta coffee produce), Indonesia (9%) and Colombia (7%).

Coffee production provides livelihood for 20 – 25 million farming families. The Barometer report stated coffee is cultivated in more than 80 countries in Central and South America, Africa and Asia. Well, not to be surprised these are the regions the developing countries which are prone to climate-induced disasters.

According to recent research published in Journal Plos One, by 2050, yields of Arabica bean – which accounts for 75 percent of the coffee produced worldwide – in some countries are expected to fall by up to 25 percent. Whereas Uganda produces both coffee beans are also at threat with reduction of suitable land to produce the specific climate growing coffee beans. Coffee needs an annual rainfall of 1500-3000mm. The ideal temperature range for growing coffee is 15-24 degree Celsius for Arabica coffee and 24-30 degree Celsius for Robusta. With the increasing global temperature predicted by IPCC, these coffee beans are facing more heat stress and water shortages.

Sustainability of coffee are becoming one of the dominant factors of brand choice other than consumer’s taste and price quality considerations. This can be verified via the implementation of voluntary standards systems (VSS).  The Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA) study confirms that certified coffee and cocoa farms, perform better economically and their farmers are better trained and pursue more environmentally friendly practices in comparison to non-certified farmers. But the success rate depend on local context and the entry cost can be challenging for small holders.

In all coffee producing countries, 70% coffee producers are small scale farmers. They face particular challenges in building their livelihoods from agriculture and in overcoming poverty. Generally, these coffee growers are:-

  • Not Well Organized
  • Lack of Market Information and Bargaining Power
  • Low and Volatile Prices for their Green Beans
  • Increasing Production Costs (rising prices of fertilizers, transportation, abour, discourage entrepreneurial activity and necessary long term investments in their farm)

Addressing climate change in the coffee sector and overcoming poverty require enhanced cooperation and communication between various stakeholders (companies, donors, farmers, researchers). Interestingly, in 2010, “The initiative for Coffee & Climate (C&C)” has initiated holistic projects focusing on how coffee production can be improved while simultaneously increasing the coffee resilience of growers in coffee- producing landscapes. They have pioneered four pilots in various regions including Guatemala, Vietnam, Tanzania and Brazil with reaching out to more than 4,000 farmers. These initiatives are also supported by some of the top ten coffee roasters that dominate almost 40% of the coffee consumption in the world; including three largest transnational corporations – Nestle, Mondelez and DE Master Blenders 1753.

Written by: Jolene Journe T.

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