Coffee and climate change

The area of land suitable for growing coffee is about to decrease dramatically...
26 April 2022

Interview with 

Dr. Roman Grüter, Zurich University of Applied Sciences


Coffee plant


Coffee has exploded onto the supermarket shelf and the high street, but it looks like this tasty stimulants growth may be a thing of the past. Harry Lewis hears from Dr. Roman Grüter at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, talking about his recently published work in PLOS, outlining the expected suitability of coffee in the near future....

Roman - The biggest producers of arabica are in Brazil, but also several countries in South America. I think the limits today are about 27 degrees north and south of the equator. You can find it in many places in India, Eastern Africa, but also in Southeast Asia.

Harry - What does the future of arabica look like over the next 20 - 30 years?

Roman - What we found in our study was that arabica coffee might be negatively affected by climate change. It's very difficult to say when and where it might not be possible to grow coffee arabica anymore. But what we could clearly find in our study is that we have to expect a decrease of suitable areas for growing arabica globally in the range of 30 - 60% by 2050. This is quite a drastic decrease. However, I have to stress here that there are also possibilities for climate change adaptation in these coffee aggro-ecosystems which might have the potential to partially offset some of these negative changes.

Harry - Would I be right in thinking that as the temperature changes, it's obviously happening all over the globe, some areas might become less suitable for growing coffee, but that means that some areas might become more suitable for growing coffee that you couldn't previously do it before?

Roman - Exactly. This is also the other extreme that we could find in our studies, or there are certain areas that might become more suitable for growing arabica. Mainly higher altitudes and latitudes, but compared to the areas decreasing, this is a much smaller area of land that might become better suitable for coffee.

Harry - Is this something you're quite worried about? Is this something that you feel is pretty inevitable?

Roman - Yes, I am worried about this and maybe not about the fact that it might get more expensive to drink coffee in the future or coffee might get less available, but I'm more worried about the fact that a big number of smallholder farmers who are really depending on these and selling this crop, they really get under pressure. They need alternative crops, ideally that can still be grown in their agricultural systems, but also they need support for adaptation strategies. By the state or by organizations working in this field.


Add a comment