photo by Reza via getty images

Inconsistent growing conditions in Ethiopia are affecting the world's coffee supply

Brian Lauvray
June 21, 2017

Call it a catastr-a-coffee (actually please don’t call it that). As the National Post reports, scientists from London and Ethiopia have discovered that Arabica coffee will be severely impacted, if not driven to extinction, by the slow-moving and sinister effects of man-made climate change in the coming decades. Arabica, the species of bean which represents approximately 70 percent of all cultivated coffee around the world, requires rather fussy growing conditions to flourish: hot, but not too hot; shady, but not too shady; plenty of water, but not too much water, and please make it a consistent volume of water, no downpours or floods, thank you.

Arabica requires consistency to thrive, and climate change will make things very traumatic and inconsistent for Arabica across most of its growing regions, particularly in Ethiopia and Yemen, the birthplace of the bean. In their report, the scientists concluded that if nothing was done to alter the effects that climate change is having on Arabica, the species and its many wild varieties could be extinct in Ethiopia and Yemen by 2080. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there’s time to reach out to governments, farmers, and landowners in these countries (and other Arabica growing regions across the world, like Jamaica, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Java) and to discuss with them better land management, forestry management, and growing practices. Forest management in particular could be key as forests afford shade (but not too much shade) to coffee plants, and also can conserve groundwater reserves and prevent erosion.

The other bad news is that a lot of these regions are situated along the same latitudes and so they're in line for similar but not identical crises brought on by the advancement of climate change. The other good news is that previously unusable regions for growing Arabica could potentially support the bean if the climate changes hit those new latitudes just right. But that’s a big “If,” so let’s focus on slowing down climate change and hope that scientists, governments, and farmers can help nip this threat to our coffee in the bud.

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