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Rising temperatures turn up the heat for the global coffee industry

Rising temperatures turn up the heat for the global coffee industry

It’s easy to take for granted a cup of coffee. With over 22,000 coffee shops in the UK alone, you’re never far away from a steaming cup of quality coffee at an affordable price. In fact, data shows that in we consume around 2.3 billion cups of coffee per year in coffee shops, which equates to around 45 cups per adult annually.

But worrying new research has revealed that the global coffee industry is in danger. Thanks to climate change, 60% of 124 known species of coffee plant are on the brink of extinction. A recent report from the Royal Botanical Gardens has confirmed this, stating that within the next seven decades, the places Arabica can grow naturally is likely to fall by at least half.

Arabica beans, the ones used in most Starbucks drinks (and the most widely traded in the world), grow the best in consistent temperatures around 15-24 Celsius. If this temperature isn’t kept steady the plants will cool, and if it’s too hot the taste of the coffee will be impaired – bad news for coffee fans everywhere!

But, beyond the changing taste of coffee beans, climate change is terrible news for coffee producers, putting the economy in places like Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and particularly Ethiopia – the geographic home of Arabica coffee – under pressure.

One such example is told by a farmer, Kondo, who produces coffee north of Sao Paulo in Cristais Paulista. Kondo said that he has noticed the temperatures climbing too high from September to November, a crucial time when Arabica plants flower. The rising temperatures has resulted in poor yields for Kondo who said the flowers fall off more often, cutting the yield per tree.

He commented: “Productivity of the coffee plants has dropped a lot. Besides the heat, it does not rain anymore as before. A few years ago, we gave up of buying a new area to expand, as we evaluated that the climate risk of planting coffee here is higher.”

Senior researcher Aaron P. Davis from the Royal Botanic Gardens said: "The important thing to remember is that coffee requires a forest habitat for its survival. With so much deforestation going on around the world, wild coffee species are being impacted at an alarming rate."

"Considering threats from human encroachment and deforestation, some (coffee species) could be extinct in 10 to 20 years, particularly with the added influence of climate change", he added.

Worth a staggering US$100 billion globally, coffee is important at every part of the supply chain, from the farmers who provide the beans, to the many chain and individual retailers of coffee, right down to the consumer. It is crucial that we heed these warnings and try to find new solutions to the growing issue of climate change.

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