How climate change affects Colombia’s coffee production


Research News


URBANA, Ill. ¬- If your day started with a cup of coffee, there’s a good chance your morning brew came from Colombia. Home to some of the finest Arabica beans, the country is the world’s third largest coffee producer. Climate change poses new challenges to coffee production in Colombia, as it does to agricultural production anywhere in the world, but a new University of Illinois study shows effects vary widely depending on where the coffee beans grow.

“Colombia is a large country with a very distinct geography. The Andes Mountains cross the country from its southwest to northeast corner. Colombian coffee is currently growing in areas with different altitude levels, and climate impacts will likely be very different for low altitude and high altitude regions,” says Sandy Dall’Erba, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics (ACE) and director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory (REAL) at U of I. Dall’Erba is co-author on the study, published in Agricultural Systems.

Other studies on the future of coffee production have either considered the country as a whole, or focused on a few areas within the country.

Dall’Erba and lead author Federico Ceballos-Sierra, who recently obtained a Ph.D. from ACE, look at climate and coffee production for the entire country, broken down into 521 municipalities. This high level of detailed information allows them to identify significant regional variations.

“Colombia is not going to experience reduced productivity overall. But when we look into the impact across municipalities, we see many differences that get lost in the national average. That has important implications for coffee growers who live in one municipality versus another,” Ceballos-Sierra says.

“Low-altitude municipalities will be negatively affected by climate change, and thousands of growers and their families in these areas will see their livelihood jeopardized because productivity is likely to fall below their breakeven point by mid-century,” he states.

The researchers analyze climate data from 2007 to 2013 across Colombia’s 521 coffee-producing municipalities and evaluate how temperature and precipitation affect coffee yield. Subsequently, they model anticipated weather conditions from 2042 to 2061 and future coffee production for each municipal area.

At the national level, they estimate productivity will increase 7.6% by 2061. But this forecast covers a wide margin of spatial differences, ranging from a 16% increase in high altitude regions (1,500 meters or 5,000 feet above sea level) to a 8.1% decrease in low altitude regions. Rising temperatures will benefit areas that are now marginal for coffee production, while areas that are currently prime coffee growing locations will be too hot and dry in the future.

Ceballos-Sierra grew up on a coffee farm in the Tolima district of Colombia, and he has seen firsthand how changing climate conditions affect production.

“My family’s farm is about 1,900 meters above sea level. Twenty years ago, people would consider that an upper marginal coffee growing area. But now we’re getting significant improvements in yield,” he says.

Meanwhile, coffee growers in lowland areas see decreasing yields, while pests that prey on coffee plants, such as the coffee bean borer, are becoming more aggressive and prevalent.

The research findings have important implications both for coffee growers and policymakers.

“In the future it will be more beneficial to grow coffee higher up in the mountains. So for those who can afford it, buying land in those areas would be a good investment,” Dall’Erba states. “The government might want to consider building infrastructures such as roads, water systems, electricity, and communication towers that would allow farmers in more elevated places to easily access nearby hubs and cities where they can sell their crops. We would expect more settlements and an increasing need for public services in those locations.”

However, because relocation is expensive, it will not necessarily be an option for most of Colombia’s 550,000 smallholder coffee growers, who will need to find other ways to adapt. Farmers might be able to implement new strategies, such as more frequent irrigation, increased use of forest shade, or shifting to different coffee varieties or other crops.

“Our research presents what we anticipate will happen 20 to 40 years from now, given current conditions and practices. Future studies can look into different adaptation strategies and their costs, and evaluate which options are best. Beyond the 40-year horizon we focus on, the prospects might be grimmer without adaptation. Production cannot keep moving to higher levels. Indeed, no mountain top is above 5,800 meters (18,000 feet) in Colombia,” Dall’Erba says.

Colombia’s policymakers can also focus on supporting farmers who no longer will be able to make a living from growing coffee, so they can transition to something else, Ceballos-Sierra states.

“Looking into these regional estimates allows us to make predictions and provide policy suggestions. Specific place-tailored strategies should guide how coffee production adapts to future climate conditions in Colombia,” he concludes.

The researchers say their findings may also apply to other coffee growing locations, including Hawaii, California, and Puerto Rico in the United States.


From EurekAlert!

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April 6, 2021 10:21 pm

I guess we can’t say or drink black coffee now…

Reply to  RayB
April 6, 2021 11:42 pm


April 6, 2021 10:24 pm

So the decline in productivity will change the economics the price will rise that is the way the market works

Reply to  H B
April 7, 2021 6:48 am

prices will rise soon as supply isnt the issue BUT shipping is

April 6, 2021 10:26 pm

The fundamental mistake in this study is the extrapolation of trends without an understanding of the underlying cause. Climate change is lumped together with deforestation caused by population growth. Deforestation is known to have a severe negative inpact on precipitation, Madagascar is the classic example.

So don’t blame every change on ‘climate change’, as in most cases climate change is a result, not a cause.

Tim Spence
Reply to  Hans Erren
April 7, 2021 3:28 am

The fundamental flaw is studying 2007-2013 and expecting to see a climatic signal and not a weather signal.

Reply to  Hans Erren
April 7, 2021 6:49 am

Also, Mt Kilimanjaro.

And, for the next 30 – 40 years,
Solar Minimum strikes!

Joel O'Bryan
April 6, 2021 10:51 pm

“At the national level, they estimate productivity will increase 7.6% by 2061.”
Oh noes!!!! The sky is falling.
Because apparently, all things staying equal, producers at lower elevations will be unable to adapt and keep up with those at higher elevations.

When are all the myriad of things in the real world of biology, and crops, cultivars, and farmer’s decisions “staying equal?”

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 7, 2021 2:49 am

I wonder if the increase in productivity already noticed by the guy at 1,900 M is due to the increase in CO2 ?

April 6, 2021 11:06 pm

Did they take into account Los Ninos and Las Ninas?

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  lee
April 7, 2021 1:40 am

Eaten by the Chupacabra.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  lee
April 7, 2021 9:14 am

Or Los Bravos.

John Dueker
April 6, 2021 11:16 pm

I’m not going to buy the full article but from the full abstract, “Indeed, municipalities above median elevation will increase their productivity by 16%, while those below the median will experience a 8.1% decrease in productivity.”

So some places increase in productivity others don’t, so what? It says they performed analysis of data sets but not what data. This looks almost as bad as Jill Biden’s thesis.

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  John Dueker
April 7, 2021 6:13 am

No different from sooth saying, tea leaf reading, or goat entrails, but they are to predict changes to the tenth of a percent.

April 6, 2021 11:19 pm

Did they take into account CO2 fertilizing the coffee plants? Maybe they should use greenhouses now and expose coffee plants to 5000 ppm CO2 to have an immediate positive effect on production.

Reply to  RelPerm
April 6, 2021 11:36 pm

A bit beyond the resources of a small coffee producer with an acre or so of beans on a steep slope

Patrick MJD
April 6, 2021 11:23 pm

There is no problem with coffee in Ethiopia.

Jon R. Salmi
Reply to  Patrick MJD
April 7, 2021 1:20 pm

Agreed! And I would prefer a good cup of earthy Ethiopian Harrar any day.

Craig from Oz
April 7, 2021 12:12 am

I am slightly concerned the author seems to have a very soft grasp of probability.

First up if you drink Robusta then it is not Columbian because they do not commercially grow that variety.

Second Brazil out produces Columbia in Arabica by about 3 to 1. Factor in all the other commercial coffee nations growing Arabica and the odds of randomly grabbing some Columbian off the shelf at your local are actually rather slim.

So either lazy writing, or this author doesn’t know how to do maths properly.

If you ever meet this person, see if you can get them to agree to dice games for money 😛

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Craig from Oz
April 7, 2021 1:52 am

But, but, Juan Valdez !

Reply to  Craig from Oz
April 7, 2021 2:20 am

I immediately noticed that too.

In 2019 Brazil and Vietnam (the #1 & #2 producers) combined to export 4.3 million metric tons, while Colombia exported only 0.8 million metric tons. The world total was 10.3 million metric tons, so Colombia only represents about about 7.7%.

So, as Craig says, the odds of randomly grabbing a bag or Colombian beans is pretty low.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Craig from Oz
April 7, 2021 9:17 am

It’s Colombia…

Kevin Hearle
April 7, 2021 12:38 am

2 problems- model and weather in 2042 to 2061 really, my weather forecast is never right 4 days out and they expect to forecast 20 to 40 years out. With what error bars.

Reply to  Kevin Hearle
April 7, 2021 8:27 am

even in mundane southern CA, we can not trust weather forecasts more than 2 days out

Reply to  Kevin Hearle
April 7, 2021 9:57 am

…and talking of weather, El Nina, cool temps, COP26, and HadCRUT V4 and V5. The UK MetOffice have reduced the time it will take to reach a warming of 1.5 degrees C. Great analysis from XMetman here:
Apologies for the slight OT. I needed other peeps to know:-)

Garland Lowe
April 7, 2021 12:50 am

They can’t predict the weather 2 weeks out accurately, but they can predict the coffee crop output 20 to 40 years out. Educated fools.

Kevin Hearle
April 7, 2021 1:21 am
Ed Zuiderwijk
April 7, 2021 1:38 am

This must be serious! Don’t interfere with my cuppa!

April 7, 2021 2:08 am

I personally think coffee growers in Columbia and Brazil will soon suffer severe reductions in coffee bean harvests after the PDO and AMO ocean cycles reenter their respective 30-year cool cycles in 3-5 years.

Since 1978 when the PDO entered its 30-year warm cycle, coffee growers have been able to cultivate new coffee plants at ever higher and higher elevations because they currently don’t have have to worry about frost loss at these higher elevations.

Moreover, coffee beans grown in high-altitude areas produce far superior tasting coffee beans because coffee plants are exposed to more cold stress, which causes the coffee plants to store more of their sugar in the coffee beans during maturation, which is great for growers and consumers.

However, when the PDO and AMO ocean cycles reenter their respective 30-year cool cycles, a large portion of these high-altitude coffee growing areas developed over the past 40 years will be wiped out by frost, and it will take 3~5 years for replanted coffee seedlings planted in lower altitudes to produce commercial-grade coffee beans..

All the Brazilian coffee growers/producers I’ve had the pleasure to deal with over the years believe CAGW is an indisputable fact and plan their operations accordingly..

Over the years, I’ve diplomatically discussed the possibility that some skepticism may be warranted on CAGW’s future projections, but to no avail, and to push the point too hard would be detrimental to our business relationship.

Im afraid my good friends at these coffee companies are about to suffer severely from their blind faith in these dangerous CAGW charlatans…

Carlo, Monte
Reply to  SAMURAI
April 7, 2021 6:17 am

As long as the KONA! coffee production is not affected, all is well.

Reply to  SAMURAI
April 7, 2021 7:25 am

What effect would higher levels of co2 and cooler temperatures have on productivity?

That question needs to be asked for all agricultural commodities.

Reply to  S.K.
April 7, 2021 10:02 am

Coffee crop yields have substantially increased from 500kg/hectare in 1970 to over 1,800kg/hectares in 2020.

Higher CO2’s levels have contributed about 15% of the increase, and, ironically, warmer temperatures have also greatly increased crop yields. Improvements in cheap petrochemical fertilizers, agricultural technology and hybrid plants have also greatly enhanced coffee yields.

Leftists are insane to believe slightly warmer global temperatures are destroying the environment…

Ron Long
April 7, 2021 2:51 am

Wait a minute…this appears to be a study funded by the cocaine producers of Columbia, masquerading as a coffee study. So, cocaine production will be compromised by climate change? Get outa here!

Reply to  Ron Long
April 7, 2021 5:18 am

Hunter will have to go back to Parmesan cheese.

Gregory Woods
April 7, 2021 3:06 am

I recently sent an article I wrote about coffee production here in Colombia to WUWT (unpublished)

The bottom line is that coffee production is increasing and unaffected by Big Climate Change.

The last paragraph:

Almost the entire article in El Tiempo is about financial and production data, and how these were affected by the pandemic. Strangely, there was not even one tiny word about how coffee production is being affected by Climate Change. In the meantime, I will suck down my 4 or 5 cups a day – I prefer Lukafe, but there is plenty of choice here for any taste. As an historical aside – We note that the downfall of the British Empire began with the Brits switch from coffee to tea. Any thoughts?


Tim Spence
April 7, 2021 3:24 am

Coffee production has always been highly variable. That’s why Coffee is top of the list of volatile commodities that are not included in official UK inflation calculations, or at least it wasn’t when I researched it years ago.

April 7, 2021 3:36 am

“Subsequently, they model anticipated weather conditions from 2042 to 2061…”

Eyes glaze over and perhaps it’s time to wash the 4WD after the Easter break getaway.

Rod Evans
April 7, 2021 3:47 am

Only in a woke dystopian mind could a projected 7% improvement in productivity be considered a negative!!

Doug Huffman
April 7, 2021 4:16 am

ein Volk. ein Reich. ein Getrank! Coke ist es! Coca-Cola. My caffeine of choice.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
April 7, 2021 6:59 am

For what it’s worth (not much), there was a fad in the Reich for decaf. It was supposedly healthier.

Climate believer
April 7, 2021 4:20 am

So, like a lot of these “victim” countries, they’re trying to have their coffee and their cake at the same time.

Blaming industrial countries for “climate change™” whilst increasing their coal production from 4 million mt in the eighties to around 90 million mt today.

So, like China, that doesn’t count then?

Not to mention recent deforestation as all agricultural activity expands due to a lull in the war.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Climate believer
April 7, 2021 5:53 am

Coffee cake.

April 7, 2021 4:53 am

How is it that a newly-awarded PhD in Agricultural Economics imagines/assumes that climate warming of less than 1 degree C will drastically change, over the course of a century, the productive range of a luxury food crop without some mitigation or reaction from human beings who have been working the same crop for 5-8 thousand years? I know of no agricultural community who cannot apply pre-scientific technology to maintain or increase production to such a simple, frequent occurrence as a change in environment and resources over generations via free-market feedback. Nobel prize work, here, certainly.

Last edited 1 year ago by dk_
Jim Veenbaas
Reply to  dk_
April 7, 2021 5:48 am

Excellent, excellent point. Let’s assume what will happen with the weather 40 years out, and further assume producers will not make any changes to their production methods – because ya know nothing has changed with farming over the last 40 years.

Bruce Cobb
April 7, 2021 5:59 am

“Colombia is not going to experience reduced productivity overall. But, blah, blahbitty blah-blah climate change blah-blah blahbitty models blah-blah more re$earch needed.” I think I hit all the high points.

April 7, 2021 6:48 am

of course the families increase in yield may well be the rising co2 assisting growth…

Tom in Toronto
April 7, 2021 6:58 am

Wonderful comedy!

April 7, 2021 7:26 am

What effect would higher levels of co2 and cooler temperatures have on production?

That question needs to be asked for all agricultural commodities.

April 7, 2021 7:44 am

And this is a bad thing how? Still looking for the data that demonstrates that increased pestilence at lower altitudes is due to “Climate Change”. snicker.
“My family’s farm is about 1,900 meters above sea level. Twenty years ago, people would consider that an upper marginal coffee growing area. But now we’re getting significant improvements in yield,” he says.

April 7, 2021 11:28 am

Anybody else notice that there are no University studies produced anymore that concern global warming? They are all about climate change.

Since climate is defined as the average weather for 30 years, all these studies are actually about weather change, which must change first before climate can. Since coffee plants are only productive from 7 to 20 years, the whole premise is ridiculous as the abstract states ” all other things being equal”. But the coffee plants producing today will not be the plants producing in 2042-2061. So the study is meaningless. Welcome to the new PhD program from the University of Illinois, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, where its easy to get an advanced degree in soothsaying, all other things being equal.

April 7, 2021 12:45 pm

What is significant here is the crystal ball has moved from the table top to the laptop. And there is nothing wrong with that except instead of personal predictions satisfying expectations of love life the laptop is predicting the fate of the world with a narrow a clarity.

April 7, 2021 2:00 pm

“anticipated weather conditions from 2042 to 2061”


as if they have the remotest clue if this will change much or not

They have only clueless models to base it on.

Chris Bock
April 7, 2021 6:11 pm

I love my coffee, if it means paying several dollars more for my Kirkland brand ground dark roast columbian coffee, its ok.

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