Confronting the Crisis In Coffee
Coffee serves as a way for many of us to start our days and provides some much-needed energy to our morning hours. For the farmers of over 12 million small coffee farms in the world, their days start with coffee as well, but instead of enjoying it in a cup, they are walking the steep inclines of their parcels to tend to their coffee trees. For these farmers, coffee isn’t a delicious beverage or a delivery vehicle for caffeine, rather it’s the means by which they feed their families. In coffee communities around the world, there is a consensus that a crisis isn’t coming — it’s already here.
The word “crisis” is deliberate and not used lightly. The unfortunate combination of climate change and low prices is causing extreme stress to coffee producers around the globe and is forcing many to face food insecurity. This crisis is now being acknowledged by many of the participants in the value chain. Temperatures are increasing, weather patterns are changing, and diseases are impacting crops at higher rates. By 2050, an estimated half of the world’s coffee-producing regions will no longer be suitable for coffee production.
Climate change has an immediate and sustained impact by reducing crop yields and increasing costs of operation. Furthermore, climate change negatively impacts coffee quality, resulting in lower prices paid to farmers. An extremely volatile international market is pushing coffee prices down even further. The coffee market has been trading under a dollar per pound, far below the cost of production. To many, the market price seems irrational as it does not reflect the economic reality that coffee farmers face, nor does it take into account the investment required to produce high-quality, sustainably grown coffee. Consequently, farmers debate whether or not they can continue to build their lives around coffee production. For young people, the answer is often a resounding no. Resigned to that reality, many must decide between staying in their communities to pursue a different crop or migrating to more prosperous countries, often the United States.