Climate change threatens Latin America coffee producers

WASHINTON: Climate change is threatening the Latin American zones most favourable for growing coffee, according to a study out on Monday (Sep 11) that warns seed production could drop by nearly 90 per cent by 2050.

Production of high-quality coffees such as Arabica are at risk as a result of rising temperatures and changes in the bee population. (Photo: AFP/Yuri Cortez)

The study suggests high quality coffees are most at risk - with Arabica coffee unable to withstand even slight fluctuations in temperature, humidity and sunlight.

Robusta coffee, mostly grown in Africa to be made into instant coffee, is slightly more resistant.

"Coffee is one of the most valuable commodities on Earth, and needs a suitable climate and pollinating bees to produce well," said study co-author Taylor Ricketts, director of the University of Vermont's Gund Institute for Environment.

"This is the first study to show how both will likely change under global warming - in ways that will hit coffee producers hard."

During the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), researchers estimated changes in Arabica coffee distribution in Latin America among 39 species of pollinating bees.

They concluded that a temperature increase of over 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (two degrees Celsius) by 2050 will reduce seed production by between 73 and 88 per cent in locations best known for coffee production currently.

A fall in the bee population of 8 to 18 per cent will also contribute to this decline.

The largest production losses are expected in Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

But it's not all bad news - as researchers suggested bee population and diversity in other areas is, in fact, likely to increase.

This would contribute to a favourable coffee-growing environment in the likes of Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico, where temperatures in mountainous regions are expected to be more suitable.

The study also highlights the importance of tropical forests for bees and other key pollinators.

Around 91 per cent of Latin America's most fertile areas for coffee production are currently less than 1.9 kilometres from a rainforest.

Source AFP