Christopher Bigamo, an 83-year-old coffee farmer who lives in the small village of Namogolo, 35 km from Uganda’s capital Kampala, says, “In the past, coffee was grown in large quantities, and we would cut it and measure its size into bags, But at present it is not possible.” Other farmers in the area say that their crop also suffered heavy losses last season.
The crop decline is a blow to the Ugandan government, as it seeks to increase coffee production to 20 million bags a year by 2030, and also seeks to replace Ethiopia as Africa’s largest producer of coffee, but scientific Uganda plans in this sector with skepticism, as declining crop sizes indicate a serious long-term problem.
coffee and climate change
“We see that climate change is increasing the pressure on coffee farmers in almost every coffee-growing region in the world,” says biologist Roman Grötter from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences. These risks have long been reflected in coffee prices on global markets, and last year Eurostat, the European statistics office, warned that coffee could become a luxury leisure item. Extremism is the main reason for the increase in coffee prices.
These developments are no longer a new phenomenon in Brazil, and in this regard, says Marcio Ferreira, head of the Brazilian Coffee Exporters Association, “we can identify some of the major climate disasters seen in recent years.” and points out that severe drought in the state of Espiritu Santo, a major producer of Robusta milk in Brazil, caused the harvest to drop from 13 million bags to 8.35 million bags during the period 2014 to 2016.
These developments are not surprising from a scientific point of view, and a study by Grotter and his research team indicated that the coffee crop suffers from climate change to a greater extent than other export crops, such as avocados and cashews. “Arabica coffee beans are especially very sensitive to high temperatures,” says expert Groeter.
Coffee plants prefer the warm, humid climate typical of the tropics, but they are also very demanding on their growing environment, and any change in soil conditions and temperature is immediately reflected in flavor and quality.
In the long term, rising temperatures also create a fertile environment for the spread of agricultural pests, such as the coffee bean beetle, or infection of plant diseases, even if they are grown at altitudes previously considered safe.
Challenges before coffee growers
In addition, coffee growers around the world must prepare themselves for short-term extreme weather events such as drought, hurricanes and floods. For example, we find that Honduras, a major coffee exporter to EU countries such as Germany, has already been affected by two of the clearest effects of climate change, along with Brazil and Vietnam. “Coffee production in Honduras has been declining for 5 years,” explains Napoleon Matute, an expert at the Honduran Coffee Institute.
While biologist Grotter points out that there are few alternative options and few new coffee-growing areas, he says that Ethiopia and southwestern Kenya, for example, are likely to gain new coffee-growing areas.
However, Christoph Jarnot, head of the Department for Ecosystem Impact Analysis on Agriculture at the University of Kassel and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, believes that the prospect of coffee planting in these new areas does not give us reason for optimism. . ,
“It is almost impossible to move agricultural production to higher altitudes, for example,” says Jarnot, even if the right temperatures are available to grow coffee there, because soil conditions can limit coffee quality.
Jarnot adds that coffee beans achieve the highest quality rates if they are grown in low-acidic and fertile soils, and there are other barriers in new cultivation areas, such as lack of experience, knowledge and lack of infrastructure.
Jarnot expects that the big coffee companies will also face problems in the future, and says that this is because these companies mix different types of coffee to achieve a better taste, and climate change is accelerating this. will make it more difficult. The same quality and quantity of coffee produced in the future. Thus, there is a need to take action now to adapt to climate change.