Global warming and your cup of coffee

KLOSS and Associates has always believed in helping to propagate responsible and sustainable farming, in honesty and trust of the communities of farmers who work hard on the land, and in finding ways to bring products from these farmers to consumers, authenticated and fairly traded.

Legend has it that a herder named Kaldi, in the Ethiopian highlands some 12 centuries ago, noticed one afternoon that his bleating goats seemed energized after chewing mysterious red berries. He took the berries to a local monastery and described their apparently magical attributes. The monks promptly threw them in the fire! As the berries were roasted by the heat, a heavenly aroma spread, and thus was born our modern day coffee. [Source: Milena Veselinovic, for CNN October 20, 2015]

Ethiopia is widely regarded as the cradle of coffee, and is the birthplace of the high quality Arabica coffee bean. Coffee provides a livelihood for close to 15 million Ethiopians, 16% of the population. Around 95% of the coffee is produced by small farmers. But this cradle, the fifth largest coffee producer in the world, and its hardworking coffee farmers, is being threatened by global warming.

A 2017 report by Kew Gardens and collaborators in Ethiopia predicts that current coffee growing areas in Ethiopia could decrease by up to 60% given a temperature rise of 4C by the end of the century, and by 55% even with a much more conservative climate change scenario. [Published in “Nature Plants” 19 June 2017,]

This threat is not in the future, and not just in Ethiopia – it is happening now and in every coffee growing region in the world: roughly 25 million families, who cultivate 34 varieties of Arabica coffee in 80 countries. A warming climate is already impacting production – just that it is most noticeable in Ethiopia and Brazil, two of the world’s largest producers of quality coffee beans.

Brazil, the world’s top coffee producer, has forecasted that a 3C rise in temperature and a 15% increase in rainfall from pre-industrial levels in two of the country’s major coffee-producing states, Minas Gerais and Sao Paulo, could see the potential area for production dwindle from 70-75% to 20-25%. [Research published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations-backed expert panel].

As a warming climate causes the amount of land suitable for coffee production to shrink, coffee drinkers could face poorer-tasting, higher-priced brews.

Coffee is a big business……

With coffee consumption at 9.5 billion kilograms in 2016, coffee is a very big business. A small number of multinationals fulfil the majority of that demand, generally with mass market products. Slightly less than two thirds of the total coffee market fits into the commodity category: the raw materials are processed quickly, the manufacturing volume is large and, thus, the final result is not a high quality product. [Ref. “The World of Coffee” – Andrea Illy, illycaffè spa]

The remaining one third of the coffee market produces high-quality coffee, and demand for these coffees is rising every year. With climate change itself and the difficulty of relocating farms to higher grounds or better regions in the short term, prices will need to rise, especially for the highest quality coffees, which are the most threatened.

But much of the quality coffee is produced by small farmers…...

What resonates is that 25 million families or so are involved in the global coffee crop. The life of a coffee farmer is not an easy one. Farming coffee is a labour of love: farmers face climate change, diseases and pests, land pressure, and labour shortages. The environment is very important to them. Many of these farmers face tough working conditions in the fields - their daily wages are often based on the weight of the coffee cherries they collect. And then the tiny coffee beans have to be manually sorted - flawed or discolored beans must be removed by hand. For every kilogram of coffee beans an Ethiopian farmer sells for around US$3, it is estimated that people up in the supply chain make around $200. [Source: “Ethiopia’s coffee farmers eye more fair trade amid rising share in global market” Daily Sabah, Jan 18 2017]

[Please watch the two videos through the BBC link below, recommended in this article]

With the expected shortages in quality coffees, the expected increases in coffee prices, the need to relocate farms, and to the dedicated coffee farmers who practice sustainable farming with a passion, consumers should be empowered to recognize and reward honest coffee growers’ commitment to quality and sustainable farming practices, and to reward them for their passion.

In Sebastio Salgado's "The Scent of a Dream: Travels in the World of Coffee," a photographic journey resulting from a common passion and value for sustainable development into the world of coffee shared with Illy, an Italian coffee company, he wrote "The grains in every cup of coffee were once touched by human hands. To those hands, I dedicate this book."

No words can describe better the need for a trusted and traceability platform authenticating coffee beans to the consumer from these honest farmers that gave us that cup of coffee. And the assurance to consumers of quality beans from each farmer on a fairtrade basis through a supply chain that is secure from contamination and fraud. Support KLOSS and Associates in helping these coffee farming communities. Support the protection of our mother earth.

[Main credit for this article is given to the BBC report: “Coffee Under Threat: Will Coffee Taste Worse As The Planet Warms?” Nassos Stylianou, 19 June 2017, BBC

Readers are encouraged to especially watch the two videos in the BBC report highlighting the plight of farmers in Ethiopia and Brazil.

Ethiopia: The Cradle of Coffee

“I can't support or provide for my family” Jamal Kasim, Ethiopian coffee farmer. In the past 10 years, farmer Jamal Kasim has noted significant changes to his coffee harvest. "In the first few years they bore a lot of fruit, but now they've become barren. I can't support or provide for my family," he says.

Brazil: The world's top coffee producer

“For the past four years, we have had rain levels way below average. The crops are suffering” says Inacio Brioschi, a coffee farmer from Espirito Santo. Brioschi lost half his crop in 2016 and expects production to be 60% below average this year.