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World Coffee Research reveals coffee climate woes

From the January 2016 issue.

Climate change is set to drastically affect which parts of the world are suitable for Arabica production, according to a new study from World Coffee Research.

A new study commissioned by World Coffee Research (WCR) has found that some of the world’s most productive coffee regions will be worst affected by climate change.

The study was commissioned to help WCR locate sites for the International Multi-location Variety Trial, a comparative study of how 35 coffee varieties perform across the world in different climate zones.

The data will be used to guide WCR’s global coffee breeding program, which is working to adapt the coffee plant so that it produces high quality coffee with good yields under a climate-constrained environment.

However the findings of the study, which was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security, have found that the future of Arabica production is under significant threat from the effects of climate change.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, confirms predictions that half of the land currently suitable for Arabica coffee production will no longer be suitable by 2050.

However, it also identifies the key climate zones in which coffee flourishes, and shows how these zones will change by 2050, bringing new insights into what can be done to adapt.

“Overall, the Arabica market is extremely threatened,” says the study’s lead author Christian Bunn, a researcher at the Colombia-based International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

These findings are made all the more serious by the fact that the popularity of coffee is growing rapidly despite the increasingly challenging conditions for its production.

“There is rising demand,” Bunn says. “In the future, we’d need more area to grow coffee on, but we’re going to have less.”

Bunn does predict that, as the climate shifts, new areas will become suitable for coffee growing, but not enough to make up for the loss of capacity in the biggest producing areas.

“I believe high locations in East Africa and Colombia, Ecuador and possibly Indonesia might become more suitable,” he says. “But they will have to be very productive to meet the demand because Brazil, the current powerhouse, is going to see big losses.”

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