Coffee growers in southern Brazil, where conditions are unaffected by El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), could help offset production losses
Climate change may soon start showing its traces on our coffee tables too. Increasing climate hazards could pose a major threat to coffee production and redraw the global map of this popular beverage, according to a new study.
Also read: Coffee out of cafe
Coffee production across the world is threatened by synchronous crop failures, characterised by broad, simultaneous yield losses in various countries at the same time, said the research published in PLOS CLIMATE on March 8, 2023. The document provided the first look at the changing nature of concurrent hazards to coffee production on a global scale.
The vast majority of the world’s coffee comprises two species — Coffea Arabica (Arabica) and Coffea Canephora (Robusta). Coffee, especially Arabica, is considered a sensitive crop, vulnerable to climate variability and change.
Researchers identified 12 climate hazards that threaten coffee crops in the top 12 coffee-producing countries — Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Honduras, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Indonesia, Uganda and India.
In Uganda, about 1.7 million households in the country depend on coffee production, according to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority.
Climate hazards impacting ideal conditions for the crop had increased in all coffee-growing regions during the study’s timeframe, with only one in six most hazardous years occurring before 2010.
Coffee growers in southern Brazil, where conditions are unaffected by El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), could help offset production losses during significant ENSO events, the researchers suggested.
ENSO, a recurring climate pattern, is a strong indicator of hazards in tropical South America, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Also read: Here’s how your cup of coffee contributes to climate change
Major Arabica-growing regions in the far southeast of Brazil and southwest Ethiopia are among the zones least susceptible to climate hazards. Coffee production here supports the livelihoods of millions of farmers.
Land suitable for growing coffee globally could be reduced by up to 50 per cent by 2050, according to a 2014 study by Springer.
The number of locations in Ethiopia naturally suited to growing Arabica is projected to drop anywhere from 68 per cent to 99.7 per cent or become extinct by 2080 due to climate change, according to a study by Royal Botanical Gardens, London.
Taken together, the recent changes and future projections of the climate suggest coffee production can expect ongoing systemic shocks as a result of sub-optimal growing conditions.
The production cycle of coffee varies by region. The researchers considered two stages of production — the flowering season and the growing season.
For Robusta production, too-cold minimum daily temperatures in the flowering season and too-warm minimum daily temperatures in the growing season have been identified as important variables.
The researchers systematically analysed climate hazards relevant to global coffee production between 1980 and 2020 to understand how large-scale climate modes such as El ENSO may lead to simultaneous coffee crop failures in multiple countries.
In particular, there were significant El Nino events in 1998, 2015, 2016 and 2019 and these years also featured high numbers of warm or dry hazards. Some 40 hazards occurred during the period, 37 of which were warm or dry.
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