The Growing Problem with the Coffee Crisis
Coffee beans take up 3-4 years to grow before producing berries, which are picked washed. Pulped, dried,
and roasted to make a coffee. The world consumes about 500 billion cups of it every year. It is grown by millions of farmers across Latin America. Africa and Asia. However, there is a crisis on the horizon. This is the only area where the coffee plant can grow, and as human-made climate change warms the planet. It's shrinking. Here in Colombia, one of the biggest coffee producers in the world, the impact of that crisis can already be felt. About 15 years ago, production fell enormously. Last year production was super low It was terrifying.
Now, as the climate changes, economic expectations have also changed, and prices are lower, the coffee cultural landscape will be nothing but just a memory. There are over a hundred spices of the coffee plant. The vast majority occur in the wild, while a few are cultivated on a farm. Two of which are by far the most common Arabica and robusta. Robusta Coffee has a bitter taste and is used to make espresso and more instant coffee. Arabica coffee is good stuff. It has a smooth and mild flavor and is used for high-quality coffee. Both species of plants require specific conditions to grow, but Arabica is particularly sensitive.
The plant needs temperature between 18-21Celsius. Too hot and the berries won't grow correctly too cold, and it can freeze. It also requires a specific amount of rain, preferably with a three-month dry season to flower, and crucially it needs warm days and cold nights. So it grows best at a condition at a specific elevation. Altogether that means Arabica grows best between 30 south to 25 North latitudes. If you were to create a perfect place for it, it would look a lot like Colombia. Specifically, the Zona Cafeteria, Colombia's coffee region.
We have all the variety of elements, and we have water, we have used colder winds, the temperature rises because of the sun. The Coffee farmers grow and process it all by hand here, which is why Colombian coffee has been considered the best in the world for over a century. People in Colombia love it because they were born within the coffee; they were raised by coffee. In my personal experience, I love coffee. It helps me relax and soothes my pain away from my horrible experience of my struggles. Coffee is art; it has become an art. But the Zona cafeteria is also where climate change is already taking a toll. GreenHouse gas emissions have warmed the region by 1.2 degrees since 1980. That's enough to push the optimal elevation for coffee higher up the mountain. Leaving the Plants down to overheat and produce lower-quality beans. That's what happened here in the villa Gloria Farm, Which sits at low elevation. They have been experiencing unbearable heat and sun intensity that didn't exist some years ago. The warmer climate is also ideal for pests and fungi up the slope, some coffee plants at the Santa Fe farm are afflicted with a fungus called coffee rusts. It's yellow.
It's a fungus that starts drying the leaf, and then they fall. At the El Oasis farm, changing weather patterns have made it hard to predict the coffee plant's life cycle. Since 2013, the amount of land used to grow coffee in Colombia has fallen by more than 7%, and scientists expect things to worsen. The Zona cafeteria is projected to warm by .3 degrees per decade and see more extreme weather. Coffee-growing regions everywhere are going to be affected. A recent study estimates that by 2050 that amount of land that can sustain coffee cultivation will be reduced by 50%, and it's not just cultivated coffee. Another study estimates that 60% of wild coffee species could be at the risk of extinction because of climate change. Some of these are used for breeding more resistant varieties of Arabica, which makes them critical to sustaining coffee production. That's not only bad news for the plant but also for those who have relied on the coffee industry for generations. In the early 20th century, Americans and Europeans were buying more and more coffee. Americans use more than 3 billion pounds of coffee every year. Coffee prices were high and generated a boom in coffee-producing countries. Colombia was the second-biggest producer in the world at the time. It was mostly grown on large coffee plantations called haciendas, dating back to when Colombia was a Spanish colony.
The work was done by peasants, indigenous people, and former slaves, many of whom were forced off their lands and subjected to brutal conditions. The plantations were profitable while prices were high, but in 1929, The US economy crashed. Demand for coffee fell, and so did the cost of bankrupting the plantations. Fearing that Colombia's entire coffee industry would vanish, the government stepped in. They purchased these large coffee fields from the owners. Many had more than a thousand hectares about the size of 1800 football fields, and they broke them up into smaller plots of about 16 hectares each, before selling them to laborers. The idea was that these small farms would grow other crops along with coffee to sustain themselves through price fluctuations. This not only saved one of Colombia's most important industries but turned it into one dominated by smallholder farmers.
To support the new small farms in 1927, the government had created a fed cafe. This agency would organize and represent the farmers by negotiating fair prices and favorable deals with other countries. The most important one was in 1962 when Colombia signed the international coffee agreement with 69 other states and set a fee to a minimum for export. As coffee prices recovered, Colombia's holder coffee farmer started thriving. By the 1970s, Colombia was using the coffee farmer, or cafeteria, as a marketing tool worldwide. Today, Colombia is the thirds world's largest coffee exporter. There are about 500,000 mostly small farms that make up the industry, but just as these farmers are starting to face climate change, the economics that supports them are disappearing. You may ask what we can do to fix this issue? Stay tuned into the Next article!