Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Coffee drinkers face a climate catastrophe, reports The Guardian, reporting on a study published by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) under the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
According to the Guardian, interviewing Dr Peter Läderach, a CCAFS climate change specialist and co-author of the report;
“If you look at the countries that will lose out most, they’re countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, which have steep hills and volcanoes,” he said. “As you move up, there’s less and less area. But if you look at some South American or east African countries, you have plateaus and a lot of areas at higher altitudes, so they will lose much less.”
Without new strategies, says the study, Brazil alone can expect its current arabica production to drop by 25% by 2050.
“In Brazil, they produce coffee on the plains and don’t have any mountains so they can’t move up,” said Läderach.
Digging a little deeper, it turns out that the study doesn’t actually predict a coffee “catastrophe”.
… The regions where Arabica coffee would be least affected by higher temperatures are East Africa with the exception of Uganda and Papua New Guinea in the Pacific. Mesoamerica would be the most affected region, specifically Nicaragua and El Salvador. Since Arabica coffee is an important export of Mesoamerica, we expect severe economic impacts here. As previously suggested by Zullo , strongly negative effects of climate change are also expected in Brazil the world’s largest Arabica producer, as well as India and Indochina. Regions predicted to suffer intermediate impacts include the Andes, parts of southern Africa and Madagascar, and Indonesia, with significant differences among islands . …
And in the conclusion:
… Some countries, such as in Mesoamerica, will lose competitiveness on global markets for quality coffee. They may need to diversify into other products to prevent adverse effects on their rural economies . Other regions such as the Andes, East Africa and Indonesia may take advantage of new market opportunities. But they may require specific policies and strategies to ensure that expansion of coffee farmlands takes place in climatically, pedologically and ecologically suitable areas . …
So even if the predictions of the report are correct, the main outcome will be some very poor countries will gain an economic opportunity. Some richer countries might have to choose between trying to breed a variety of coffee which is better suited to their climate, or growing something else.
Frankly it seems a bit of a stretch, to describe this outcome as a “catastrophe”.