Cherish your morning cup of coffee, because coffee production is in danger. In communities in Brazil, the world’s largest producer of coffee, coffee farmers are abandoning the plant because of the lack of water. The coffee growing regions in Brazil are experiencing drought like they never have before. And this problem isn’t limited to Brazil, a new study states that climate change will cut the area suitable for growing coffee in half.
Coffee growers in Brazil recount their stories and difficulties:
A new report says that the world’s coffee supply may be in danger owing to climate change. In the world’s biggest coffee-producing nation, Brazil, the effects of warming temperatures are already being felt in some communities.
You can see the effects in places like Naygney Assu’s farm, tucked on a quiet hillside in Espirito Santo state in eastern Brazil. Walking over his coffee field is a noisy experience, because it’s desiccated. The leaves from the plants are curled up all over the floor, in rust-colored piles. The plants themselves are completely denuded.
“We’ve had no rain since last December,” Assu tells me in Portuguese, “and my well dried up. There was nothing we can do, except wait for rain.”
But the rain doesn’t come.
In fact, it’s been three years of drought here in Sao Gabriel da Palha. This region is part of Brazil’s coffee belt. Farmers here have been growing robusta — a coffee bean used in espressos and instant coffee — since the 1950s. Assu says he doesn’t know what to do.
“To be honest, I don’t see a future,” he tells me.
He’s lost 90 percent of his coffee crop. And he is not the only one. Production of robusta this year is down 30 percent in the state.
“Coffee depends on a lot of water,” says Perseu Perdoná, an agronomist with the local coffee cooperative. And coffee plants are already sensitive to temperature. “Climate change is happening,” he tells me, “we can see it. Add to that deforestation, which means the ground can’t retain water when it rains.”
He fears that in the near future, unless something drastically changes, coffee will disappear from this region.
A new report from Australia’s Climate Institute says coffee production worldwide is in danger because of climate change. It cites a study that says “hotter weather and changes in rainfall patterns are projected to cut the area suitable for coffee in half by 2050.”
Antonio Joaquim de Souza Neto, president of Cooabriel, tells me his family has long roots in the area and this is the worst drought in at least 80 years — basically, since anyone alive can remember.
He brings out the records of 17 years of rainfall in the region. He says it used to rain on average 1,300 millimeters (51 inches) a year; in the last three years, that number has plunged to just over 400 mm (15.7 inches) a year.