Coffee is important to the economy of coffee-producing regions. A study published in PLOS Climate by Doug Richardson of CSIRO Oceans & Atmosphere, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia and colleagues suggests that climate change could have a significant impact on the land where coffee is grown.

Coffee plants are sensitive to climate fluctuations and changes. However, the impact of synchronous climate hazards occurring in multiple areas important to coffee production is unknown. To better understand how large-scale climate modes such as El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) can lead to simultaneous coffee crop failures in multiple countries, researchers conducted a systematic analysis of climate hazards and composite events in coffee-producing regions from 1980-2020. They identified 12 climate hazards threatening coffee cultivation in the top 12 coffee-producing countries, for example exceeding the maximum daily temperature that coffee plants can tolerate.

The researchers found that the number of climate hazards and composite events has increased between 1980 and 2020 in every coffee-growing region. In addition, the type of hazards has shifted from conditions that are too cool to conditions that are too hot. However, more research is needed to understand what kinds of adaptations could reduce coffee crop failures worldwide.

According to the authors “Our results suggest that El Niño is the primary mode in explaining compounded variability of climate events, both globally and regionally. Regional-level hazards are therefore indicative of a systemic risk to coffee production, rather than a local one. Net as with other crops, a systemic risk to the global coffee trade is posed by synchronized crop failures.With climate change projections showing continued temperature rise in the tropics, we argue that coffee production can expect continued systemic shocks in response to spatially compounded climate risks.

The authors add: “Since 1980, global coffee production has been increasingly at risk of synchronized crop failures, which can be caused by climate hazards affecting multiple key coffee-producing areas at the same time.”

Magazine reference

  1. Richardson D, Kath J, Byrareddy VM, Monselesan DP, Risbey JS, Squire DT, et al. (2023) Synchronous climate hazards are an increasing challenge for global coffee production. PLOS climate 2(3): e0000134.DOI: 10.1371/journal.pclm.0000134