How Climate Change is Impacting the Coffee Industry
The coffee industry has been particularly hard-hit by climate change, impacting the entire supply chain from farm to cup. Every year, land once considered ideal for farming and harvesting becomes lost to future generations of coffee growers. As the effects of global warming continue to ravage the coffee industry, many farmers, roasters, and researchers are coming together to stem the tide and emerge more sustainable and prosperous than ever.
A study in the journal PLOS One found that by 2050, there will be up to 50% decline in available regions for coffee farming. This is because as the climate warms, regions dependent on specific temperatures to grow specialty coffee will become inhospitable for coffee farming. Furthermore, the best coffee is grown in high altitudes where the temperature is cooler (but not too cool). As these regions warm, the fantastic coffee from these areas will disappear. If farmers continue to grow in these regions, the coffee will begin to taste notably worse.
Climate change will not just impact the consumer’s ability to drink a good cup of coffee; it also impacts the ability of farmers to earn a decent wage. As land becomes scarcer, coffee farmers will be forced to produce less crop and cut labor costs even further. They will either be forced to charge more for less coffee beans or simply stop farming. But even if they raise prices, the increased costs throughout the supply chain may ultimately make coffee farming, coffee roasting, and even coffee consumption economically unsustainable.
So what can be done to stave off this calamity?
Fortunately, coffee farmers and researchers are already working on ways to become more sustainable and adaptive to our changing planet.
Many coffee farms are focusing more on reducing their carbon footprint. They are investing in a concept called circular economy, where the waste and byproducts of farming are reused to improve environmental sustainability and save costs. Most commonly, this involves farmers reusing coffee husks and wastewater in other parts of their farming. Coffee husks, for example, can be reused as biofuel. Water used to wash and sort coffee cherries contains high levels of potassium, which can damage the environment if not properly disposed. However, the high potassium levels are great for fertilizer, and many farmers are reusing the wastewater for this purpose.
But addressing the issues of climate change should not fall solely on the coffee farmer. Coffee importers are also developing more streamlined methods of delivering harvested green coffee to coffee roasters such as ourselves. The use of blockchain technology also allows for more accountability in the supply chain, as we are able to track a coffee from farm to cup and ensure it is being harvested, shipped and roasted in a sustainable and ethical manner.
At Empower Coffee Roasters, we do our part by working with our coffee importers and farms to ensure not only are the farms paying living wages, but also engaging in environmentally sustainable practices. This is becoming the industry standard for coffee roasters, but it does come with a price which we are happy to pay.
As a consumer, we do have the option of cheap coffee. But we also must understand the hidden costs of that cheap coffee in terms of the exploitation of workers and the poor environmental practices used to farm that cheap cup of coffee. We all have a responsibility to ensure the future of coffee and the people who grow our favorite roasts. That often means paying a premium. But in our view, the premium we pay now is simply an investment in the future of quality coffee around the world.