Is climate change making your morning coffee more expensive?

Land that can produce high-quality beans is becoming more scarce thanks to warming planet

Samuel Webb
Wednesday 25 August 2021 23:08 BST
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An analysis of coffee markets suggests climate change is already affecting how much we pay for our morning eye-opener.

As temperatures rise and droughts intensify, good coffee will become increasingly difficult to grow and expensive to buy. Studies suggest that by 2050, about half of land used for high-quality coffee will be unproductive.

An analysis of trade information by data analysts OEC shows how coffee production is being affected by climate change – and how our taste for coffee could change as a result.

Coffee is one of the most traded commodities in the world and two species, Arabica (70 per cent) and Robusta (30 per cent) account for virtually all production.

Brazil grows 28 per cent of the world’s Robusta, which is bitter and used for instant coffee and espresso, and 41 per cent of Arabica, which is seen as superior. Robusta, however, is a more hardy crop, grows in hotter temperatures, and may become the bean of choice as the price of Arabica soars.

According to the US Department of Agriculture database, Brazil’s Arabica production is expected to drop by 30 per cent this year, while Robusta will grow by 5 per cent.

In Brazil, Arabica production is located in the states of Minas Gerais, São Paulo, and Bahia. Robusta is almost exclusively grown in the state of Espírito Santo. During the last six months, only Espírito Santo has grown its coffee exports in Brazil.

The OEC added: “This year, Brazil’s Arabica production will be at the same levels as 2011, when the price of coffee peaked. In 2011, Arabica production in Brazil declined 17 per cent, while Robusta increased 14 per cent.

“In 2011, 30 per cent of total production was Robusta. This year, it will be 40 per cent.”

Coffee companies, such as Starbucks, are investing millions to develop coffee beans that can survive drought and heat while also maintaining the Arabica taste.

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