Clouds could be gathering over global coffee supplies, with scientists warning that one of the world’s key coffee varieties could become extinct before the end of this century.
According to a new study from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, wild Arabica beans are struggling to adapt to new weather patterns caused by climate change and could be extinct by 2080.
“These are worrying prospects for the world’s favourite beverage - the second most traded commodity after oil, and one crucial to the economies of several countries,” the scientists said.
The scientists used computer modelling to forecast the impact of climate change on Arabica beans in the wild, and said their study marked the first time research of this kind had been carried out on coffee species in the wild. “Surprisingly, even studies on plantation coffee have been limited, despite the concerns of farmers and other industry stakeholders,” they added.
Although predictions of Arabica becoming extinct refer specifically to beans grown in the wild, the study’s results suggest cultivation conditions for the coffee industry more generally are going to get worse as a result of climate change, the scientists said. “Optimum cultivation conditions are likely to become increasingly difficult to achieve in many pre-existing coffee growing areas, leading to a reduction in productivity, increased and intensified management and crop failure,” they warned.
Coffee prices had reached record highs recently amid soaring demand and poor harvests, they said. “It is perceived by various stakeholders that some of the poor harvests are due to changed climate conditions, thus linking price increases to climate change.”
The scientists added they hoped their study would prompt the coffee industry to develop strategies for dealing with climate change and take action in particularly vulnerable growing areas now.