A Future Without Coffee? It Could Happen, And Soon

Los Angeles , January 22, 2019 () – Can you imagine a world without coffee? Because you might have to, and sooner than you think.

According to scientists at Britain's Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, three in five species of wild coffee are at risk of extinction as a deadly mix of climate change, disease and deforestation puts the future of the world's favorite beverage in jeopardy.

More than 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day, but the multi-billion-dollar industry is reliant on wild varieties grown in just a few regions to maintain commercial crop variety and adapt to changing threats posed by pests. 

Scientists at Kew Royal used the latest computer modelling techniques and on-the-ground research to predict how the 124 coffee varieties listed as endangered might fare as the planet continues to warm and ecosystems are decimated. Around 75 coffee species were assessed as being threatened with extinction: 13 classed as critically endangered, 40 as endangered, including coffea arabica, and 22 as vulnerable. 

"Overall, the fact that the extinction risk across all coffee species was so high — nearly 60% — that's way above normal extinction risk figures for plants," Aaron Davis, head of coffee research at Kew, told Agence France-Presse. "It's up there with the most endangered plant groups. In another way, it's hardly surprising because a lot of species are hard to find, grow in restricted areas... some have a population only the size of a football pitch." 

Global coffee production currently relies on just two species: Arabica and Robusta.  Arabica, prized for its acidity and flavor, accounts for roughly 60% of all coffee sold worldwide. It exists in the wild in just two countries: Ethiopia and South Sudan. 

The team at Kew accessed climate data recorded in Ethiopia going back more than 40 years to measure how quickly the coffee's natural habitat was being eroded by deforestation and rising temperatures. They found that nearly a third of all wild Arabica species were grown outside conservation areas. 

"You've also got the fact that a lot of those protected areas are still under threat from deforestation and encroachment, so it doesn't mean they are secure," Davis said.

Coffee isn’t going away tomorrow. But its future may no longer be a given.

Nevin Barich is the Food and Beverage Analyst for Industry Intelligence, which can help YOU better address your own industry challenges. We invite you to come take a look at our service. Call us today at 310-553-0008 and we’ll schedule you for a 15-minute demo.

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