What is the future for coffee?
Environmental change puts coffee under threat
There are serious concerns for the future sustainability of coffee crops due to plant diseases like leaf rust and wider environmental issues. Two recent studies shed further light on the potential risks to the coffee trade at a time when demand is steadily growing with no sign of abating.
The first report published in the journal Science Advances suggests that more than 60% of the 124 coffee species are at risk of extinction. While only two varieties are produced for consumption – robusta and arabica, which is itself under threat – Dr Aaron Davis of the Royal Botanic Gardens explains, “If it wasn’t for wild species we wouldn’t have as much coffee to drink in the world today. Because if you look at the history of coffee cultivation, we have used wild species to make the coffee crop sustainable.” Reduced potential for cross pollination and crop development coupled with environmental change may hugely impact coffee production.
Non-profit institute, World Coffee Research, suggests it is time to pursue coffee crop farming in new locations such as Australia. Prof Graham King of Southern Cross University, Australia, says. “Many current mountainous tropical production areas of the world are likely to become untenable for coffee as climate change progresses. Within Australia we currently have the benefit of no coffee rust, cherry borer or other major pests and disease. This is unique compared with most production areas of the world.”
While this will undoubtedly impact on traditional coffee growing regions, it could be one of the few options to meet demand.