Because I drive a hybrid car, I’m not as directly affected by oil price spikes as most. Coffee is another story. When I read in the New York Times last week that yields are plummeting in major coffee-growing regions and saw references to “peak coffee,” I started to panic.
Eugene N. Anderson, who wrote Caffeine and Culture, writes in the New York Times’ “Room for Debate” column that the current shortage will prompt people to plant more good, shade-grown coffee. “Coffee is one of those classic commodities, like beef, that goes through cycles: when expensive, people grow more, but the crop takes a few years to mature, by which time the plantings have produced a glut, so people cut production, and the cycle starts over again,” Anderson explains. Unlike oil production, he points out, coffee planting can be increased worldwide.
Still, there’s cause for worry. Peter Baker, a coffee specialist with CABI, a British research group that focuses on agriculture and the environment, says heavy rains and drought across Central and South America are not a good sign. “Coffee production is under threat from global warming, and the outlook for Arabica in particular is not good,” he says. The Specialty Coffee Association of America warned this year, “It is not too far-fetched to begin questioning the very existence of specialty coffee.”
“Climatic variability is the main factor responsible for changes in coffee yields all over the world,” the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation stated. Average temperatures in Colombia’s coffee regions have risen 1 to 2 degrees in 30 years, and rainfall has increased by 25 percent, says Cenicafé, the national coffee research center.
I’m not taking any chances; I’m stocking up on Mother’s Fair Trade Peace Blend coffee. (I’ve always been something of a hoarder when it comes to the supplies for my daily brew, anyway.) I hope it doesn’t come down to it, but I may have to look into some coffee alternatives. I can’t go there yet, though. I need a coffee break.
Coffee beans are getting precious. iStock photo