The Gloomy Story of Coffee & the Climate Change

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Global warming implies- rising heat, extreme weathers, and this in turn means that the highland bean is running out of cool mountain sides on which it flourishes! The Lifestyle Journalist Gaurav Goswami explains how this change of climate is affecting our favorite Coffee!

Sombre Note

The Coffee production of the whole world is under pressure! Environmental factors such as climate change and Coffee rust affect the production areas, product and producers. These factors thereby also increase the cost for producers, communities, traders, roasters and finally the consumers. Small farmers are likely to be hit the severest! The climate change increases their input and labour costs while at the same time decreasing their productivity levels. Decreasing margins threaten their livelihood.

Coffee Background

The sumptuous and refreshing Coffee we love is actually a perennial, tropical crop grown in humid lowlands and tropical humid or sub humid highlands. It requires specific environmental conditions for successful production offcourse depending on the Coffee variety! Ideally the average temperature ranges between 15-24 degree centigrade for Arabica and 24-30 degree centigrade for Robusta Coffee varieties. Also 1500-3000 mm rainfall is ideal for Arabica variety, while the other varieties require less.
The consumption of Coffee as a social event has a history going back over centuries. Merchants saw people consuming Coffee in the Ottoman Empire, the first European Coffee houses appeared in Venice, London and Oxford in the mid-17th century. From there, they spread all over the continent and Coffee became an important ingredient during meetings. It was already a popular part of the public sphere by then.
Various intellectual and cultural movements are closely associated with different cafes where protagonist gathered. One such was the Parisian literary circle around Jean Paul Sartre with the Cafe Les Deux Magots.

Value Chain

The Coffee value chain is made up of the four prime phases-cultivating, processing, roasting and consumption. The initial production of Coffee beans including farming, collecting and processing is labor demanding and is performed in more labour abundant developing countries. The roasting and branding of Coffee is more costly and therefore takes place in industrialized countries. The top Coffee consumers are United States of America, Brazil, Germany, Japan and France.

Climate Change May Lead To

It is generally accepted that climate will affect both Arabica and Robusta producers. Rising temperature are expected to render certain producing areas less suitable or completely unsuitable for Coffee growing, meaning production may have to shift and alternate crops will have to be identified. Pests and diseases will increase whereas Coffee quality is likely to suffer. All this will increase the cost of production whereas in the future fewer parts of the world may be suitable for Coffee production. An important point to also consider is that Coffee production contributes to the emission of Green houses gases, which harms the environment.

The Challenges

Coffee is produced in more than 50 developing countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, and it is an important source of income for 20-25 million families worldwide. The timing and duration of seasonal rain is critical to triggering flowering and seed development in the Coffee plant, as many of the world’s Coffee farms depend on rain to meet the water needs of their plants. Unfortunately, too much rain can also damage Coffee fruit during is development and destabilize soil, thereby, causing problems for Coffee plant and their surroundings. Water is also vital for post harvesting process, as globally, washed Coffee commands higher process. Although, advances in processing technology have made it possible to reduce the volume of water needed for washing Coffee, but the water efficient milling equipment is costly so it becomes very difficult for small scale farmers to procure it. Even if weather cooperates at every stage of growing, the effect of climate change may still threaten the viability of Coffee farming business. A landslide, for instance, makes roads impenetrable or storms damage export infrastructure thereby delaying Coffee sales and shipments. Global climate models show that extreme weather is becoming more common, stronger and frequent. With irregular rainfall patterns, the need for credit increases and adaption cost are added to the other cost farmers regularly incur in producing Coffee. Farmers purchase additional pesticides and herbicides to face with the threat of losing the Coffee plant.


The Coffee industry needs to follow a two way strategy-a short term and a long term one. The short term strategy includes better farming practices and more efficient on farm processes. Whereas, the long term strategy includes capacity building , mapping of climate data, improving soil fertility, examining different production models and developing drought and disease resistant Coffee varieties. Strategies and investments will need to focus not only on Coffee farming and the environment, but also address economic and social impacts on climate change ranging from crop loss to migration.

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