The story of a coffee hoax: running out of coffee

Why is it that some people persist in stories featuring doom and gloom while other people will always look for the best possible result? If you believe the stories from the glass half empty people then your days of drinking coffee are severely numbered, because the world is going to run out of coffee beans by the year 2080. Is this story just a hoax to sell newspaper headlines or could there be some truth in it?

Arabica plants and beans

Arabica beans are found in around 70% of the world’s coffee; this is great news if the Arabica plant can grow well but they are susceptible to climate change as well as the many pests and diseases that are attracted to the plant.

Without Arabica, coffee would be harder to locate and even when you found a suitable brand it would be much more expensive.

From the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London, researchers have compiled a report with the Environment and Coffee Forest Forum in Addis Ababa. The British and Ethiopian researchers have been considering how climate change might possibly change the land where Arabica plants currently grow. They are predicting, that even with the best possible results, that there will be a 38% reduction in locating good quality land that can grow the Arabica plants, by the year 2080. If the climate change goes further than expected, the coffee bean growing plants will show losses of between 90 and 100%. The study suggests that the plant could become extinct.

Brazil, Colombia and Ethiopia move about 100 million bags of coffee, worth over $16 billion every year, with most coffee made from the Arabica beans. The plants grow best between 18° C and 21° C. Where it is hotter, the plants will ripen too quickly which drastically affects the taste. Alternately, they may grow too slowly.

The study suggests that if the large-scale deforestation of the highland forests of Ethiopian and South Sudan continue, the results for growing Arabica plants could be even worse.

Looking after the other 30% of the world’s coffee beans

While the study is intended to take up newspaper and Internet headlines, experts suggest that there is plenty of time to change the diversity of the plants so that they can live under different circumstances. Scientists are consistently finding ways to genetically modify plants and vegetables, so a change in the plants will aid their continued survival. Growers can always look towards wild species that have developed a natural resistance to either global warming or the pests and diseases that might affect the plants.

Alternatively, governments will look at the other 30% of the world’s coffee plants and beans and find ways that they can replace any losses of the Arabica plants and beans.

So no, it’s not a hoax, but you don’t need to worry just yet. With 50 years left to solve the problem, coffee growers and scientists have plenty of time to ensure that your office coffee won’t disappear.

Image: Richie Yamashiroya/Flickr

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