Whenever a discussion is about the environment, a loss of words. A couple of degrees change doesn't seem a lot when it's a cosy room, but when it is about the slight difference between ice and water, it does. Climate change is not about just those 2 degrees, but about the change in various parameters that a plant grows, prospers and flourishes in. The phenomenon has affected water availability which in turn reduces soil quality, the uneven and unpredictable weathers have brought in a lot of physiological stress for the growth of the plant; all of which combine to cause a change in life cycles and quality of the coffee plant.
The ideal temperature to grow that gorgeous Arabica blend is around the range of 18 to 21 degrees, by the virtue of which farmers have to relocate their farms a little higher than where they were, and with every season it only gets a little harder to do that. If the palm oil industry has ever taught anything it is that a bunch of trees don't make a forest, an untouched variety of them does. In about 100 species of coffee, most of them are wild and make the world a better place, only a few of which are grown domestically and are fit for consumption. The value of wild coffee is more about securing the future of coffee, it brings in the resistance to pests and when converted into economic viabilities it is about 1-2 Billion USD.
The world consumes an overwhelming 500 million cups, and to grow all of that coffee is a big deal of small proportions. The gradual upward spike in temperature has lead to an increase in fungal infections and the various outbursts of pests. In the long run, climate change is bound to have an irreversible impact on our capacity to produce coffee, it so happens that Brazil's bout with dry weather in the season 2020-21 has reduced its production by 40%. This deficit will have an impact on world markets as Brazil functions as the world's largest producer and exporter of the revered and adored brown gold. The coffee plantations usually need an area that does not allow stagnation of water, a place on the hills, with gradual warming up of the temperatures farmers are coerced into moving up in altitude. The problem with doing so is multifold, that more land needs to be cleared to make space for growing coffee and that there isn't enough land while going upwards, this anomaly causes an imbalance like the one in Columbia which has translated into losing 7% of land cover in just the last 8 years.
The time is now, with the way the world is pacier than it seems, we must get to a point of reflection sooner than later. Do we act on our hunch of making the world aware of the consequences or do we sit back and let things happen at their own pace? That will answer the direction the world is headed to.
Over the course of the coming few weeks, we're going to dive deep into how climate change is affecting coffee cultivations. We're going to look at problems at the grass-root level, see what we as a community of concerned consumers can do about it, and look at the future of coffee.
- Mani Varna from Wobh