Coffee & the Threat of Climate Change
The rising temperatures of climate change have impacted coffee farms across the globe. In recent years the threat of La Roya (“coffee rust”) has increased in high altitude areas, which were once thought safe from the cold-sensitive disease. La Roya is a fungus that feeds off the Arabica coffee plants and infects the leaves, which eventually fall off, causing the tree to die.
There are two main coffee plants, Arabica and Robusta. Popular for their exceptional taste, the beloved Arabica coffee plants require a considerable amount of attention and care because of their high susceptibility to disease and pests. Depending on which varieties, some Arabica coffee plants need substantial amounts of fertilizers to ensure a successful yield. These fertilizers accelerate the production of nitrous oxide emission, a harmful and powerful greenhouse gas. Many farmers like to use popular brands which, unfortunately, are loaded with more toxic chemicals.
In 2017, the National Coffee Association reported there has been a 27% increase in adults who drink specialty coffee, compared to 6 years ago. Consequently, the demand for the traditional Arabica varieties like Bourbon, Typica, and Gesha has gained even more popularity, contributing to the green bean buyers’ purchasing decisions. The rising demand calls for farmers to keep up with their production, despite the threat of La Roya and unpredictable climate patterns. If this unbalanced cycle of supply and demand continues, the coffee we drink today will become less accessible, and more expensive.
One solution to the environmental threats of coffee production is to invest in new coffee varieties, or so called, “coffee plants for the 21st century.” These new varieties are more resilient to diseases, highly adaptable to a changing climate, and will “result in major global productivity and quality gains in the next 10-20 years” (World Coffee Research).
Costa Rica is leading these efforts with the recently established NAMA Café to help the country’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2021. They are working together with ICAFE, one of the key public institutions in the government coffee sector, to provide the producers with proper education on these new varieties and ways to reduce carbon emissions.
During the Global Specialty Coffee Expo 2018, Fulcrum will be hosting cuppings and discussions with these two important industry leaders. If you are interested in agricultural sustainability, climate change issues, and/or are a barista, a green bean buyer, or if you just like coffee, this is a great opportunity to learn more and enjoy delicious coffee.