World’s Coffee Supply ‘Threatened’

Imagine: One Monday morning in America…you pull into your favorite, drive-through espresso stand, only to find a “closed due to lack of beans” sign…Or you pop into you local coffee drink retailer, and find that the price of a 12 ounce latte has tripled to over 7 bucks, plus tax…

It’s fair to guess that this would have wide-spread repercussion on our nation’s economic engine, such as it is…Lack of convenient caffeine (in our favorite beverage form) could precipitate a real crisis, of unknown duration.

Ok, so maybe the thought of a drastic reduction in the world’s coffee supply is not on your ‘deep concern radar’…but it is to Coffee retail giant Starbucks, whose concern for its global supply chain — sourced most in Central America — has always been of deep (and obvious) concern.

In a recent interview in The Guardian,  Starbucks’ ‘sustainability director’ Jim Hanna told the reporter:

” “What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road – if conditions continue as they are – is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain, which is the Arabica coffee bean.”

How climate change is impacting coffee bean crop yields:

Apparently, a double-threat combination of increased frequency of severe flooding storms (like hurricanes), and a proliferating, resistant pest problem, does not bode well for a steady, robust supply of java beans.

Both of these problems have been attributed, directly or indirectly, to global warming and associated climate change impacts (see these other PS articles: Dry Times for Western North America, Climate Trends Forecast, and, Mississippi River Floods, Texas Drought, and Global Weirding (& Food Prices/Crises)

Crop yields the world over are projected to dwindle by significant amounts (see scenario above). Hanna stated in the same interview that its Central American suppliers are already seeing “changing retail patterns and more severe pest infestations.”

Map showing areas of coffee cultivationMap showing areas of coffee cultivation: r:Coffea canephora m:Coffea canephora and Coffea arabica a:Coffea arabica

Also noted were additional impacts from mudslides (caused in part by deforestation) and incremental changes in the lengths of the dry and wet seasons. These factors also impact crop yields and may eventually force farmers in the region to abandon coffee as a commercial crop and adopt others more suitable to the changing climate conditions.

To its credit, Starbucks has allied itself with other corporate business leaders to pressure the US Congress to move on Climate Change policy and legislation. So far, despite its considerable economic pull, the coalition has had little success doing so.

More about your java:

The main sources of Arabica coffee beans (Coffea arabica) are mostly tropical or sub-tropical nations such as Columbia, Nicaragua, Brazil, Java, Sumatra, India, Ethiopia, and Kenya.  Three quarters of the coffee grown in the world is of the Arabica variety, which is considered the most flavorful.

Other types of coffee plants grown for commercial use are the “robust” and “mild” varieties of Coffea canephora, which though more bitter tasting, is more “full-bodied” and has 40% or more caffeine that Arabica beans. It is used in espresso blends to add body (and a richer foam or crema), and in common supermarket blends to keep costs low.

Over 900 natural pests of Coffea arabica have been documented, including the devastating coffee leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix). Other pests include beetles (nearly 1/3 of coffeee pests), nematodes (tiny worms), mites, and even some species of slug and snail.

Coffea canephora is far more resistant to the leaf rust (found in nearly every coffee growing region of the world)and many farmers are moving towards growing the robusta variety of canephora which has the added advantage of being more easily cultivated at lower altitudes (much of the prized Arabica coffee is “mountain grown”) and warmer temperatures.

And one more thing:

And, if you think you can just switch over to hot chocolate when the time comes, new research by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, shows that if present warming trends continue, by 2050 it will be too hot to grow cacao trees (Theobroma cacao)  in the main producing nations (Ivory Coast, Ghana).

The price of pure chocolate is already at historical highs.

Source: Planetsave (

« back to news index