Last week, the International Coffee Organization met in Guatemala (a couple of blocks from my house) to discuss sustainability. It was taken seriously; three heads of government — Colom, Porfirio, and Funes — showed up. Rightly so, roughly 25 million small producers rely on the crop for their living. And the rest of us consume over 500 billion cups a year. I’m certainly drinking my fair share.
The consensus: coffee producers are getting “hammered” by climate change. According to the head of the ICO Nestor Osorio, “In the last 25 years the temperature has risen half a degree in coffee producing countries, five times more than in the 25 years before.” This pushes growers higher toward cooler terroir, creating another competitor for already scarce resources on diminishing arable land. The UN Environment Program believes that an increase in 2 degrees Celsius could end coffee production in Uganda. Elsewhere, like in India, in the Coorg region, Arabica farms have seen rainfall decrease by a third.
I’ve talked to some coffee growers in Guatemala myself, about 3 or 4 months ago. In addition to the cooler climate, the growers complained of dealing with less predictability in the already sensitive growing season. These producers also took pride in being all organic, which further increases the vulnerability of the crop.
*Apparently Johnny Cash also once sang “The Best Part of Waking Up.” If a video exists and anyone has access, I’d love to see it.