This naturally occurring phenomenon changes normal rain and temperature patterns and can create extreme weather conditions in many parts of the world, including the United States.
These extreme weather patterns can bring floods to some areas and droughts to others, which can damage food crops, including those necessary for the world’s coffee production.
Most of the world’s coffee supply comes from two varieties of coffee beans: arabica and robusta. Robusta beans are more resistant to the effects of an overheating planet and are regarded as potential solutions to changing weather patterns.
However, it is believed that this year’s El Niño could affect both types of beans.
Why does this year’s El Niño matter?
This year’s El Niño has already contributed to the hottest summer on record in the North Hemisphere and numerous extreme weather events around the world. But coffee production relies on stable, mild, and predictable weather patterns.
“Coffee is a demanding and highly sensitive commodity, and coffee crops respond dramatically to weather variations,” Nyagoy Nyong’o, Fairtrade’s Global CEO, told Columbia Climate School in 2021.
Coffee prices today are still recovering after a recent drought hit parts of South America.
This year’s El Niño threatens to affect weather in some of the world’s most important coffee-producing countries, such as Brazil, Vietnam, and Colombia. If this happens, coffee lovers could pay more for their favorite beverage.
What’s being done to prepare coffee for El Niño?
Experts are working on making coffee crops more resistant to heat and drought.
Perhaps the most effective solution is to produce cell-cultured coffee, which makes coffee by extracting DNA from the coffee leaf and bioprinting the cells onto scaffolds. Last year Foodnavigator reported that one company was already working on this.
Regardless, considering how coffee is currently produced and the way human activities have been changing our climate, “it is important to understand that coffee is increasingly becoming a high-risk investment,” Christian Bunn, a scientist at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, told the Washington Post.
“Independent of individual events, the entire [coffee] sector is highly concerned about climate change,” he said.
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