Saturday, May 28, 2011

Peak coffee: A cup of trouble

Largely because of the weather, Colombia’s production has fallen to 9.5 million 60-kilogram bags last year from 12 million bags in 2007, the last year before the particularly nasty version of the weather pattern known as La Nina brought the rain.

At the same time, many farmers are encouraged to move out of coffee production as other agricultural products – from plantain in Colombia, to sugar cane in Brazil – soar in price, and land costs rise.

Colombia’s production troubles are shared by other coffee-making countries, including Brazil. Production in Central America and East Africa has been stagnant or down in the past few years, while global demand keeps growing at a rate of about 2.5 per cent a year.

Agricultural experts are warning that the ability of growers to respond to higher prices by increasing supply will be limited by the continuation of poor growing conditions resulting from changing weather patterns and by competition for land use in exporting countries that could limit coffee production.

Growers need to be prepared to adapt to climate change, said Peter Baker, a senior scientist with CABI, a British agricultural institute.

“Is it climate change or not?” Mr. Baker asked of the changing weather patterns. “It’s extremely difficult to say but this is exactly what you would expect to happen: That we’re going to get more extremes in the weather like this.”

Peak coffee: A cup of trouble

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