Let’s Talk About Our Planet, Pt. 5 – The Coffee Crisis
First, I want to apologize for the infrequency posts the past few weeks.
There were a few things beyond my control that occurred. Some things that were in my control too, but I lacked the mental capacity to deal with them at the time. Among a few other things, the most destructive to my mind was losing a good friend to a battle with cancer. I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m simply looking for some understanding as to why I needed to take a break from any serious posts. Frankly, for the past few weeks, I didn’t care – and that’s ok. We all need to be apathetic once in a while; in healthy doses.
Despite that, I did manage to publish a new story that relates directly to the topic at hand. If you like my climate change series, I certainly recommend checking it out. You can find the link on Amazon here, and if you enjoy it, or have any comment, be sure to leave me a review and tell me what you think:
Anyways, I’m starting to get my head back into shape, my grief is subsiding, and my mind is ready to reenter reality. To do that…coffee is required. Hopefully I don’t need much, because by the year 2022, we are estimating a potential rise in price to go with a decline in growth.
If you still don’t have any qualms about climate change, either due to lack of compassion for human kind (which, sadly, I can understand), or because you just simply don’t see it as a threat, then hopefully this article hits home for you…likely at your breakfast table.
Most people in our self-appointed modern society enjoy one common morning beverage: coffee. Some people don’t, and that’s understandable. To those people, I just ask you to empathize. If you know a coffee drinker, then you know how irritable a person can be without their morning cup of Joe.
If you still don’t really care – what about chocolate? The growth of the cocoa plant, and the growth of the coffee flower, are both being threatened by the same problem: rising temperatures, increased moisture, a rise in pestilence, and an increase in extreme weather.
I want to give chocolate its own article – I feel the effects of that are going to be devastating to the comfort levels of so many people worldwide (almost more so than coffee) – not to mention the environmental impacts. So today I will focus on the decline of the coffee flower.
The coffee flower itself is a sensitive plant when it comes to climate. It adapts to very specific areas and soil types, and a slight mid-long term change can have major influences on production. Rust can occur very easily on the Arabica flower, with only a little bit of long-term change in temperature. One example is the decrease in yield some of the biggest producers of Arabica.
Between 2002 and 2011, the countries that supply the globe with 64 percent of Arabica coffee (Indonesia, Brazil, Colombia, and Vietnam), reported a yield reduction of 33 percent in 9 years. Arabica coffee is the also the most common throughout the global market, accounting for 70 percent of all the coffee within it.
Here’s a general break down of these numbers for better understanding:
Global Marketplace (all coffee currently in legal circulation and production):
Arabica: 70%, Other: 30%
Actual impact on the overall market from the countries reporting decline:
64% of Arabica in the global market
44% of coffee in the global market
Percentage of decline in the overall market, caused by the decline in the aforementioned countries (Over 9 years):
Overall drop of 14.5%
That’s not so bad right? It’s only 14 percent, and if you round up to be generous, maybe only 15 percent. And many of those countries have bounced back since then, as seen with Brazil in this graph:
There are a few reasons for this. One is the initiative to modify and manipulate the seeds and soil to the changing climate. The other is the fact that production does not equal yield. But we’ll discuss that later.
For now, let’s go back to the global market numbers I presented earlier.
If those numbers are only accounting for 44 percent of all coffee in the market, that leaves 66 percent completely unexplored. Less than half of the entire market, decreasing 33 percent, which makes a 14 percent difference overall. Think about that.
I repeat: less than half of the entire market has a yield decrease of 33 percent (or roughly a third), and it affects the entire market production by 14 percent. That’s a fairly big fall in a short amount of time, if you ask me.
So what about the other 66 percent?
Robusta coffee and Arabica from countries outside of this statistic make up the remaining percent.
Agrimoney.com reports that over there was a 25 percent decline in Robusta yield in 2015 – mainly due to rust, pests, and other issues that come with a wetter, warmer, climate.
I will list my sources below so you can find more information for yourself, and make your own conclusion on those stats. For now, I want to move on to the ripple effects that will echo through the ecosystem is coffee continues to dwindle.
A research company named PLOS ONE, has projected that with loss of coffee growth in the past few years, along with many other environmental factors, that we can expect up to 35 percent of invertebrates living in areas abundant with the coffee flower to be threatened. The ones that depend on it directly, as well as the ones who prey on those that depend on it directly.
The berry borer, soil erosion, extreme temperature shifts, disease – these and more are factors that lead to a detrimental decline of an ecosystem. It’s all connected, and when one part has a change/loss of life in such a mass number, it rings through the rest of the world. Like any explosive blast, the closer you are to the epicenter, the more you will be affected by the change.
Good news, though. Current trends are showing a slight rise from the decline of the past few years. The coffee market may be recovering. I stated that above with the example of Brazil, and this echo can be seen in a few major providers of coffee.
Now, before you say “SEE! SEE! There wasn’t ever a problem!”, please allow me to tell you what the solutions were behind this recovery.
Genetic changes to the Arabica and Robusta plant has made them more resistant to rust and pests, making them less vulnerable and more stable in a shifting climate. More help, attention and dedication, along with better tech, has helped produce a better yield in places that otherwise would have struggled. Then there’s more attention to soil fertility, and the use of less harmful chemicals to keep pests and other dangers away from the plants.
Everyday there are new solutions coming forward for the recovery of our planet, and I hope we can keep moving forward for the better. There’s no doubt humans have had a major impact over the past century of industrial technology, so we should do our best to make up for that by using our tech to help our environment adapt to the changes.
So what can you do?
You can donate to various charities and organizations combating climate change in the countries producing coffee. You can talk about the problem, or write about it (as I choose to do). You can try to limit coffee consumption (easier said than done). You can donate to the places studying climate change, as many are non-profit organizations that have little funding to begin with.
Be creative, and I’m sure you’ll come up with a way to help with the problem. Though coffee production seems to be on a bit of a current rise, that doesn’t mean there isn’t more that has yet to be done. One year of growth does not make up for a decade of poor yield.
Let’s get into the difference between production and yield that I mentioned earlier.
Yield is how much you are getting from one area, while production is the overall net sum of what you’ve produced. You can have more production with a decrease in yield, but it requires more resources to do so. So as there may be a rise in production, it may not be only because of the necessary changes made to increase the yield. It’s also because of a change in the way coffee is farmed, and the scale of which it is harvested.
In other words, a decline in yield is a much bigger issue than a decline in production, and production can seem healthy, while the yield suffers unknowingly in the background. The longer the yield suffers and is ignored, the more potential it has to drop. If it drops low enough, we could see a massive shortage in coffee itself. That’s why it’s important to find new and inventive ways to help the plant adapt to the changing climate.
Carbon emissions, higher temperatures, and extreme weather are all common threats we will have to get used to dealing with. The coffee plant is just one of thousands, if not millions of species that are affected by the change.
Keep an eye out for my next Climate Change article on the decline of cocoa production, what’s being done to stop it, and what you can possibly do to stop it.
Anyways, thanks for reading, and have a great week!
My Past Climate Change Articles:
Coffee and Climate:
Union of Concerned Scientists:
Coffee: World Markets and Trade (2015/2016 Forecast)
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