Food Industry News

Humanity will lose coffee?

Coffee plantations are rapidly declining, and wild coffee may disappear altogether, Australian scientists predict. “Ogonyok” learned the details.

An impending storm - this is how experts from the Climate Institute (Australia) called their sensational report.

The research by Australian academics, sponsored by the non-profit organization Fair Trade, is truly daunting. Ogonyok contacted its authors to find out the details firsthand.

To begin with, let's outline the scale of the problem: coffee is a key world agricultural crop - since the 1960s its production worldwide has tripled, consumption is growing by 5 percent a year, and exports in 2015 alone brought developing countries (where it mainly grows) 19 billion US dollars. These numbers apply not only to economists, but to virtually everyone, as 2,25 billion cups of coffee are drunk every day around the world. In Australia, where this report was released, coffee has already supplanted tea as the most popular "stimulant" - 46 percent of Australians drink it daily.

It would seem that the yard is the golden age of everyone's favorite drink. And suddenly - new alarms, they were brought by global warming. The authors of the report state that there are serious reasons to believe that the increase in temperature and changes in the precipitation regime have already begun to affect the yield of coffee, its quality, pest activity and vulnerability to disease. The forecast is disappointing: in the world as a whole, by 2050, the area where it is possible to grow coffee will decrease by 50 percent. And by 2080, wild coffee - the most important genetic resource for farmers - may disappear altogether!

Let's figure it out in more detail. Today, the world production is dominated by the Arabica variety, which grows in the highlands in the tropics, which accounts for 70 percent of all world supplies (the second most widespread variety, Robusta, grows lower and goes mainly to the low-quality instant coffee market). So the initial advantage of Arabica can turn into problems: the fact is that, unlike Robusta, special temperature conditions are required for it - 18-21 degrees Celsius. This does not mean that it does not grow at other temperatures, but these are the ideal ones. Now imagine that Arabica coffee has to ripen at 23 degrees: in this case, seedlings grow too quickly and bear fruit too early, and this immediately affects the quality of the beans, even half a degree is already critical ...

And now - statistics. This is how the temperature has changed in recent years in the countries of the so-called Coffee Belt (a unique zone between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn). For example, Ethiopia rose 1960 degrees annually from 2006 to 1,3, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras jumped 1 degree averages, and rainfall declined 1980 percent since the 15s. Or take Brazil. In its eastern state of Minas Gerais, where coffee traditionally grows, the number and intensity of temperature highs increased from 1960 to 2011, while the number of temperature lows decreased.

“What is happening now with the temperature regime and precipitation around the world is, of course, a very serious challenge for agriculture,” says Alexei Kokorin, coordinator of the WWF climate program. more heavy rains and snowfalls, despite the fact that, for example, the total amount of precipitation may not change, this immediately affects the productivity of certain crops.

It's the same with the average temperature, he notes. As of last year, this indicator for the world, taking into account the contribution of El Niño, increased by 1 degree (counting from the pre-industrial level). Moreover, it is the anthropogenic impact in this warming that is estimated at about 0,85 degrees, but the number of extreme temperatures and anomalies has increased much more, for the same coffee it is very sensitive, says Kokorin.

- The weather has become very strange, things happen that we have not seen before, - cited on the BBC farmers growing coffee in Chiapas in Mexico, researchers from the University of California (USA) recently spoke with them.

The changes in the climate, in fact, launched a number of dangerous processes for coffee, Australian experts continue: for example, in 2012, after unusually high temperatures and powerful rainfall in Central America, the invasion of the Hemileia vastatrix fungus began - this disease known as "coffee rust" , spread rapidly in mountainous areas, damaging more than 50 percent of the crop. The fungus was also encountered in Colombia, in its mountainous regions, where earlier it was "frightened off" by the cold. The real disaster today is associated with the so-called coffee beetles, or Hypothenemus hampei. If earlier they met mainly in the Congo, now they feel at ease practically throughout the entire Coffee Belt - the damage they cause is estimated at $ 500 million annually. Moreover, since 2001, beetles, whose habitat was previously limited to 1500 meters above sea level, attracted by warmer and wetter conditions, began to appear higher in Tanzania, Uganda and Indonesia.

However, perhaps the most astounding coffee change is yet to come. So, the rise in temperatures will presumably make the majority of Mexican plantations unviable by 2020, in Nicaragua they will lose most of their "coffee zone" by 2050, in Tanzania, Arabica crops will be critically reduced by 2060 ... In fact, we are talking about the fact that coffee plantations move from the equator to the highlands.

Coffee Belt problems will be felt everywhere, even where coffee does not grow. “Ogonyok” asked the director of the Climate Institute John Connor, how will all this affect ordinary people who like to drink coffee in the morning?

“Most likely they will notice a drop in its quality, for example, in terms of aroma and taste,” he says. “The prices are likely to rise sharply as well.

Some experts even warn that coffee will become less affordable and more elite drink!

We contacted scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, UK, who recently released a report on how various plants live today. They confirm that climate change is already affecting coffee, the main problem is drought, and most of the land where coffee grows today will really become unusable in the next decade. However, the coffee itself, of course, will not disappear, says Dr. Aaron Davis.

The traditional Russian question, what to do, is more relevant today for the coffee industry than ever before. John Connor from the Climate Institute knows the answer: it is the development of more sustainable production systems, and the diversification of crops, and the transfer of plantations ... At the same time, the expert emphasizes: the problem is that most of the coffee in the world is produced by small farmers from the poorest regions of the world, they have less room to adapt, fortunately some big coffee companies are already launching assistance programs. Will help? Dr Aaron Davis of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew notes that some farmers will certainly be able to adapt to climate change, provided there is financial incentive to do so. Now, they say, coffee prices are low and the "potential for such adaptation" is still limited ... Meanwhile, El Salvador has already come up with a "coffee route": tourists are brought along plantations in the west of the country - here you will get tastings and the opportunity to see the whole process of coffee production. And in Nicaragua, many farmers completely decided ... to abandon coffee, replacing it with cocoa.

Scientists, meanwhile, continue to sound the alarm: out of 391 plant species known today, one in five is endangered, the Daily Mail notes, citing British experts. In the same Africa, according to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, in the near future, many lands where bananas are grown, for example, will become unusable. And how will we be without all this? ..

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