How will climate change affect your coffee business?

Janice Kanniah
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July 27, 2023
An image of a coffee roaster releasing roasted coffee beans from a roaster in an article on how climate change will affect coffee business

It has become clear that global warming is no longer an issue to be dealt with in the distant future. Sea levels are rising, temperatures are increasing, and many aspects of human life are already being impacted.

One area that is changing most drastically is agriculture. When it comes to climate change, the agricultural sector finds itself in a tricky position. Extreme weather patterns and rising temperatures can affect both crop quality and yields. However, these same crops are a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Coffee is no exception, and studies show climate conditions that reduce coffee yields have become more frequent over the past four decades. Therefore, businesses in the sector must find a way to keep up with production demands without compromising the health of their land or its resources.

As a specialty coffee roaster or cafe owner, you must understand how climate change is affecting coffee cultivation, as it is likely to impact your business in the future. More so, you need to determine how you can effectively minimise the carbon footprint of your business. 

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What is the coffee cultivation map?

For centuries, coffee has been cultivated as an essential crop around the world. Notably, around 10 million tons are produced every year, while an estimated 27 million acres of global farmland are dedicated to cultivating coffee plants. Additionally, over 70% of the yields around the world are produced by 120 million small-scale farmers.

Optimal coffee-growing conditions include cool to warm tropical climates and nutrient-rich soils. The ideal temperatures for growing arabica coffee, for instance, range between 18°C and 21°C (64° and 70°F). It can tolerate annual temperatures up to around 24°C (73°F). These conditions ensure the coffee cherries develop and ripen at the ideal rates, producing quality coffee beans with minimal waste. 

These highly specific conditions mean most coffee is grown across the coffee belt. This belt encompasses parts of North, Central, and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. While coffee is often grown outside of these areas, it’s difficult to replicate the natural conditions the coffee belt produces.

An image of a coffee farmer harvesting ripe coffee cherries by hand in an article on how climate change will affect coffee business

How climate change is affecting coffee production

Coffee production is in a fragile state – despite it being in constant demand and supported by a robust supply chain. Experts believe the amount of land for farming coffee will be halved by 2050. Arabica coffee is most under threat as it dominates global production and is in higher demand because of its quality.

Climate change may also force coffee farmers to migrate to higher altitudes in search of cooler temperatures. However, this may eliminate protected forest areas which provide valuable carbon storage benefits and help maintain local biodiversity.

As biodiversity comes under pressure, the risk of pests increases. As temperatures rise, coffee berry borers, coffee white stem borers, and leaf miners find it easier to infiltrate coffee crops. Furthermore, these warmer environments are more suitable for reproduction, and the pests’ usual predators (such as birds) are likely to leave the area as it becomes inhospitable to them.

Beyond this, fluctuating temperatures alone can create cellular damage and oxidative stress in coffee plants. This can lead to lower crop yields of reduced quality, forcing coffee farmers to switch to costly or complex harvest and preservation methods.

Collectively, climate change is likely to result in farmers experiencing reduced incomes with higher risks. This could lead to poverty, which will chase farmers away from coffee production while driving up its cost. 

An image of recyclable coffee packaging, kraft paper coffee bags, compostable coffee packaging, in an article on how climate change will affect coffee business

How changes to coffee cultivation affect your business

Currently, the coffee production market is worth around €458 billion, with Europe representing the largest consumer share. Therefore, countries importing and roasting coffee can expect the nature of production to change in the next few years.

A shift in cultivation methods

For instance, it is likely to see coffee farmers investing in alternative methods that can compensate for decreased future yields. This may include indoor and vertical gardens, as well as hydroponic farming methods. These innovations offer farmers more control over variables such as water, sunlight, and air.

Additionally, scientists are currently developing hardier coffee varieties that can withstand drought and pests.

Additional financial support for farmers

As a roaster, it is important to remember that while farmers do the lion’s share of the work, they typically receive very little profit. Larger roasters and importers can help by forming strong relationships with producers. Additionally, they must be prepared to invest in these producers to safeguard the future of coffee. 

Changes in coffee prices

The largest impact on you as a roaster or cafe owner will be the increase in coffee prices. It is also likely that you will need to pass these increases on to customers. However, there are ways to get ahead of this and help customers understand why the increase is happening. Be transparent with your customers and communicate that the higher costs are helping to facilitate coffee cultivation in the future. 

Alongside supporting farmers, you will need to tackle your own carbon emissions. One of the most effective ways to start is by switching to sustainable coffee packaging. This refers to any type of packaging, whether a flat bottom pouch or a drip coffee bag, that reduces the carbon footprint and environmental impact of a business.

According to the World Packaging Organization (WPO), sustainable packaging must meet the functional and economic needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This includes the whole supply chain, from basic function and marketing to end-of-life and reuse.

Beyond this, you can use coffee bags to help educate customers about the impact of climate change at origin. This way, customers will understand the importance of supporting ethical and conscientious roasters.

It is clear that significant and swift action must also be taken by business leaders, policymakers, and consumers to protect coffee-growing for future generations. At MTPak Coffee, we understand how important it is to ensure a quality product with packaging that has little to no effect on the environment. We can help you design and produce customised packaging in a range of shapes and sizes and finishes. 

Our custom-printed stickers can also be fully customised to your desired shape, size, and colours. As for our sustainable coffee packaging options, they are available in materials such as recycled cardboard, kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with a PLA lining.

For more information on sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team.

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Janice Kanniah
Janice Kanniah

Janice is freelance writer based in South Africa and has written for MTPak Coffee since 2020. Her interests are in writing about sustainability, the circular economy, and the future of the environment.

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