As a staple for early morning wake-up calls, coffee is a key part of many people’s daily routine — at least for now. With temperatures continuing to rise due to the effects of climate change, many countries are experiencing drastic weather changes that are significantly affecting crop growth. Published on Jan. 26, researchers from Plos One Journals looked at how rising temperatures, changes in precipitation and land and soil characteristics will impact crop growth.
After conducting the study, they found that three crops are most threatened by climate change: coffee, avocados and cashews.
With the global temperature already warming by 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit), crop growth and an increase in natural disasters are at the forefront of the issue. Now, Natural Geographic reported that by 2100, the world could heat up by as much as 3 degrees Celsius (5.5 degrees Fahrenheit).
How are temperatures affecting crops?
Certain crops require certain conditions in order to grow and thrive — many crops depend on typically seasonal weather, but what happens when the weather is atypical?
Coffee in particular requires certain tropical weather conditions — heat and humidity — to grow, making Latin American countries perfect for the job. Many of the world’s biggest coffee producers are included in the so-called Latin America coffee belt, with 5 out of the world’s top 10 coffee producers residing in this region — Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Peru and Mexico.
Though with climate change bringing drier seasons, fluctuating temperatures and annual participation, many crops like coffee that depend on stability will not be able to survive in the environments they are currently produced in.
Research done by the International Coffee Organization found that the top five coffee-producing countries in the world — Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and Ethiopia — account for roughly 75% of the world’s total coffee production.
Out of the top five, two of the five biggest coffee-producing countries will see a dramatic decrease if low temperatures reach the area — research predicting that coffee growth suitability would decrease by 75% in Brazil and 63% in Colombia.
Experts are also saying that rising temperatures will reduce global coffee growth up to 50% by 2050. This means that not only is the morning coffee routine gone, but more importantly countries that rely on the coffee industry will see a dramatic economic shift.
Meanwhile, countries that wouldn’t have had the suitable conditions to sustain coffee plants before, such as Nicaragua or Argentina, would be more suitable as the temperature shifts.
Coffee farmers already experience hardships when it comes to growing coffee.
80% of coffee produced is grown by small farms, yet farmers are often the lowest paid in the coffee supply chain, sometimes wage being barely above the production cost. Fairtrade International reported that as of 2019 small coffee farmers received less than $1.00 per pound for their product.
Due to low wages, in 2019 coffee growers from some of the world’s top coffee-producing countries including Brazil, Colombia and 24 other countries met in Brazil to discuss raising the price of coffee production to incorporate more pay for farmers.
Around the same time, growers from more than 30 countries wrote to roughly 20 coffee corporations, including Nestlé and Starbucks, asking for better pay. Besides their plea, many farmers received only condolences.
With coffee farmers, and other small farmers for that matter, already experiencing low-income at normal production times — and many leaving the business due to these reasons — a drastic blow to coffee plants would mean an even greater blow to farmers income, perhaps extinguishing many farms for good.
Other popular crops on the brink of extinction: Avocados and cashews
Avocados and cashews, like coffee, are also among the listed crops threatened by climate change.
Avocados require precise conditions to be able to grow — limited by average minimum temperatures and the right amount of humidity.
Similarly, cashews also require certain conditions, with drier seasons and lower temperatures severely restricting the crop.
In 2019, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reported that the world produced roughly 7.1 million tons of avocados and 2.8 million tons of cashews.
Plos One researchers analyzed the top four avocado and cashew producing countries, finding that 58% of avocado production comes from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Peru and Indonesia, while 73% of cashew production comes from Vietnam, India, Côte d”Ivoire and Benin.
Unlike coffee plants, avocado and cashew production will not be as hard hit, with most of the top 4 producing countries experiencing either positive or negative impacts.
Of the better scenario, Mexico, one of the highest producing avocado countries, could see a suitability increase of 70%. In contrast, other high growing countries such as the Dominican Republic, Peru and Indonesia could lose 55% to 70% of their suitable avocado growing areas.
Cashews, on the other hand, will see Vietnam’s high stability land increase by one-third, while countries like Côte d’Ivoire, India and Benin could see a significant decrease — 16% in Côte d’Ivoire, 29% in India and 78% in Benin.
Yet again, with crop industries like avocados and cashews weaving in and out of different countries, many small farms will experience a drastic economic toll that will pose a substantial threat.
How can farmers adapt?
Although climate change is altering the present, modern technology could help modify what is to come.
Communities that could be affected by climate change will have to invest in different growing techniques in order to produce the same crop result. The Plos One study suggests using cover crops to benefit the soil and breeding more climate-hardy variations are the best solutions to adapt to climate change.
Although this may be a solution, it is not long term. Climate change is fast-hitting, like a wave, striking and hitting the shore one after the other. Breeding in itself could take years for farmers to perfect and changes in temperature aren’t waiting – even if, theoretically, genetic engineering techniques could provide a solution, cutting this time by half or more. However, GMO’s also raise problems of their own, causing pushback from many countries, especially in Europe that has adopted clear anti-GMO policies.
As of now one of the best initiatives governments can take is focusing on lowering carbon emissions and hitting climate change where it starts — it is better, easier and less costly to take action now than to adapt later.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com contributors are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — Featured Photo: Coffee plant at Mojo Plantation on August 12, 2012. Source: Cyndy Sims Parr, Flickr.