Quantcast

Climate Change Causes Spike in Coffee Prices

Climate

In recent days Arabica coffee beans—by far the most popular variety of coffee—have been fetching around $2 USD a pound on the world market. That’s nearly double the price of a year ago.

Several factors seem to be driving the market upwards: in Central America, a significant production area, an outbreak of a disease called leaf rust—believed to be linked to changes in climate—has severely damaged the crop.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

A prolonged period of drought and some unseasonably cold weather in Vietnam—now the world’s second biggest coffee-producer—has cut back crop forecasts for robusta beans, mainly used for instant coffee. A lack of rain has also hit coffee-producing areas in East Africa.

But it’s climate-related events in Brazil, the world’s biggest coffee grower—responsible for about 40 percent of global production—which seem to be causing the most froth amongst international market traders.

Minas Gerais state, in the south-east of Brazil, produces about 25 percent of the country’s coffee crop. Rainfall during December, January and February—the usual period of most precipitation—was about 10 percent of normal, while temperatures rose well above average.

Coffee & Climate (C&C) helps coffee farmers around the world adapt to climate change. “Data from 68 meteorological stations and 264 rain gauges tell us that the climate in Minas Gerais is changing,” it said in a recent report. “Nearly all parts of the state experienced significant warming over the 1960-2011 period, with warm extremes increasing and cold extremes decreasing.”

Big Drops

Events in Minas Gerais over recent months have been exceptional, says C&C, with parts of the state experiencing mean maximum temperatures in January of between three and four degrees Celsius above the long-term average.

The result has been a disaster for many coffee growers. Without adequate water, berries have dried or have become so-called floaters—virtually empty husks.

In recent weeks the rains have arrived in the form of torrential downpours: that might do more harm than good with the harvest fast approaching, though coffee farmers are still hoping for a last-minute turnaround in fortunes.

Commodity experts say there’s likely to be a drop of up to 35 percent in Minas Gerais production this year—and an overall drop of 18 percent in Brazil’s output of Arabica beans.

As global demand for coffee has surged over recent years, farmers have rushed to plant more coffee trees. It is these young trees which are most susceptible to water shortages.

Coffee farmers and traders are also concerned that the quality, as well as the quantity, of the crop might be affected by the adverse weather.

Worse Than Thought

The pattern of Brazil’s climate has been undergoing considerable change in recent years. A 2013 NASA-led study says the drought rate in Amazonia over the past decade is unprecedented over the past century.

The study also suggests that the effect of what scientists call a mega-drought in 2005 in an area of Amazon rainforest twice the size of California is far more serious than previously thought, with indications that the forest is taking many years to recover.

The fear is that drought conditions—and increasingly volatile weather patterns—will hit a large part of Brazil, one of the world’s major agricultural producers.

In its latest report the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says coffee production is likely to decrease worldwide as temperatures rise.

One possible bright spot for coffee drinkers is that prices are unlikely to rise this year—or by not much, at least. Most of the big coffee houses tend to buy on what’s called the futures market—locking in a set price for their goods, often for years in advance. Traders are also holding large stockpiles of beans after a bumper harvest last year.

But there are signs that speculators are piling into the market, anxious not to miss out on what could be a big step up in prices. So the advice is: drink that coffee now. Don’t wait any longer.

--------

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Canada Focuses on Food Security  With Seed Diversity Initiative 

Climate Change Will Make it Harder to Grow These 5 Foods

Climate Change Causes Chain Reaction in Ecosystems

-------- 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Electric cars recharge at public charging stations. Sven Loeffler / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Ben Jervey

Drivers of electric cars are being unfairly punished by punitive fees in several states, according to a newly published analysis by Consumer Reports. Legislators in 26 states have enacted or proposed special registration fees for electric vehicles (EVs) that the consumer advocacy group found to be more expensive than the gas taxes paid by the driver of an average new gasoline vehicle.

Read More Show Less
A plastic bag sticks to a wire fence in a remote location in the Mourne Mountains, co Down, Northern Ireland. Dave G Kelly / Moment / Getty Images

Ireland is ready to say goodbye to plastic cutlery, plastic balloon sticks and grocery items wrapped in plastic as a way to drastically reduce the amount of waste in Irish landfills, according to the Ireland's national broadcaster, RTE.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
This 1910, power plant, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, is owned by Congress and is the only coal-burning facility in a city that repeatedly violates Clean Air standards. Jahi Chikwendiu / The Washington Post / Getty Images

By Oliver Milman

Two-thirds of Americans believe climate change is either a crisis or a serious problem, with a majority wanting immediate action to address global heating and its damaging consequences, major new polling has found.

Read More Show Less
Organic carrots and radishes at a farmers' market. carterdayne / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Brian Barth

There's something of a civil war brewing in the organic movement.

Read More Show Less
Volunteers participate in 2018's International Coastal Cleanup in (clockwise from top left) the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Norway and Washington, DC. Ocean Conservancy / Gabriel Ortiz, David Kwaku Sakyi, Kristin Folsland Olsen, Emily Brauner

This coming Saturday, Sept. 21 is the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), the annual Ocean Conservancy event that mobilizes volunteers in more than 100 countries to collect litter from beaches and waterways and record what they find.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Students hold a Youth Strike for Climate Change Protest in London, UK on May 24. Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

The New York City public schools will allow their 1.1 million students to skip school for Friday's global climate strike, The New York Times reported Monday.

Read More Show Less
The 16-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg speaks during her protest action for more climate protection with a reporter. Steffen Trumpf / picture alliance / Getty Images

By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

It's been 30 years since Bill McKibben rang the warning bells about the threat of man-made climate change — first in a piece in The New Yorker, and then in his book, The End of Nature.

Read More Show Less
At the International Motor Show (IAA), climate protestors are calling for a change in transportation politics. © Kevin McElvaney / Greenpeace

Thousands of protestors marched in front of Frankfurt's International Motor Show (IAA) on Saturday to show their disgust with the auto industry's role in the climate crisis. The protestors demanded an end to combustion engines and a shift to more environmentally friendly emissions-free vehicles, as Reuters reported.

Read More Show Less