We’re writing this on what could turn out to be the hottest ever day recorded in the UK. That’s not a good thing. Well, apart from the short-term boost if you’re a coffee shop owner or an ice cream parlour. For you guys, you should be aiming to beat records of your own in terms of takings. A good supply of smoothie, milkshake and frappe ingredients, tubs and tubs of ice cream or gelato, and a freezer that produces ice fast will see you well on your way to turning over huge numbers of customers and upping your profits. Iced coffee should shift fast, and don’t forget to put out bowls of water for people walking their dogs in this overwhelming heat. But we use the phrase ‘record temperatures threatening’ advisedly.
Threatening because, as well as being indicative of climate change, with all the raised risks that brings, this trend towards unpredictable and extreme weather threatens the very source of your income. Not today and not tomorrow, but in decades to come.
Three years ago, Fairtrade commissioned the Climate Institute to conduct a report on the risks of climate change to coffee. It made for grim reading. Unless there’s a wholesale change in the amount of carbon emissions, climate change could “cut the global area suitable for coffee production by as much as 50 per cent by 2050.” That’s not going to happen suddenly – or at least not at first; there’ll be gradual loss of suitable growing areas and increases in pests and diseases. At both ends of the coffee supply chain, things will change.
Small coffee growers – particularly of the higher-quality arabica coffee, which grows at higher altitude in areas typically not suited to large-scale farming – will struggle. The volume of their crops will suffer, as will their incomes, diet, health and ability to plan, prepare and adapt for the future. At the other end – your end – of the chain, you’ll see reduced variety of coffee and probably higher prices.
And while global emissions aren’t something we can influence greatly – apart from making our voices heard in putting pressure on big companies and reducing our own personal impacts – we can do our bit to help coffee growing communities prepare. As with our post last week, it comes down to how and where you buy your coffee. Look for suppliers who support coffee communities with initiatives like irrigation and clean water, education, hygiene and renewable energy programmes.