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Climate Change May Make Coffee More Scarce & Expensive- New Research

Coffee is by far the most important, with estimated revenue of US$460 billion (£344 billion) in 2022, while avocado and cashew are worth $13 billion and $6 billion, respectively.

Shivam Dwivedi
Picture of Coffee Berries
Picture of Coffee Berries

Under a moderate climate change scenario, the world could lose half of its best coffee-growing land. Brazil, the world's largest coffee producer, will see 79 percent of its most suitable coffee-growing land disappear.

This is one of the key findings of a new study conducted by Swiss scientists who examined the potential effects of climate change on coffee, cashews, and avocados. All three are globally traded crops grown primarily by small-scale farmers in the tropics.

Research Findings:

Coffee is by far the most important, with estimated revenue of US$460 billion (£344 billion) in 2022, while avocado and cashew are worth $13 billion and $6 billion, respectively. While coffee is primarily used as a stimulant, avocados, and cashews are popular food crops high in monounsaturated plant oils and other beneficial nutrients.

The new study's main takeaway message is that predicted climatic changes are likely to result in significant decreases in the amount of land suitable for growing these crops in some of the main regions where they are currently cultivated. As a result, this could have an impact on both growers and consumers all over the world.

To date, most research into the future effects of climate change on food has concentrated on temperate-zone staple crops such as wheat, maize, potatoes, and oilseeds. This reflects climate scientists' tendency to focus on the potentially severe effects of climate change on temperate ecosystems, particularly due to altered temperature and rainfall patterns.

Tropics- 'Reservoirs of Biodiversity'

In contrast, there has been less work on tropical ecosystems, which account for roughly 40% of global land area and are home to more than 3 billion people, with up to 1 billion more expected to do so by the 2050s.

The tropics also support vast reservoirs of biodiversity, as well as areas for growing a variety of important crops that provide income and food for their massive human populations. The new study confirms and significantly expands on findings from a small number of previous studies on coffee, cashew, and avocado crops.

The investigation of land and soil parameters, in addition to purely climatic factors such as temperature and rainfall patterns, is a significant innovation in the study. This allows them to provide a more nuanced view of future impacts that may significantly alter the suitability of some tropical regions for growing specific crops due to changes in factors such as soil pH or texture.

The new study adds to other recent oil palm research. Despite being contentious and frequently associated with deforestation, oil palm remains one of the most important tropical crops in terms of human nutrition, feeding more than 3 billion people.

These studies, taken together, are beginning to reveal the startling extent and complexity of the effects of climate change and associated factors on some of the most important crops grown in the tropics. Importantly, the effects will not be evenly distributed, and some regions may benefit from climate change.

As a result, we will need to adapt to the ongoing changes in the tropics, such as shifting crop cultivation to different regions where climate impacts will be less severe. However, regardless of mitigation measures implemented, it appears likely that many tropical crops will become scarcer and thus more expensive in the future. In terms of coffee, it may even evolve from a low-cost everyday beverage to a prized treat to be enjoyed only on special occasions, similar to fine wine.

(Source: The Conversation)

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