The coffee crisis: an approach to the environmental and social perspective which is vital to address and take action for coffee farmers.
In my role as a trainer, it’s hard to conceive the coffee industry as a career when it’s in such a dire state and the future is so uncertain for coffee sustainability.
On face value, this might seem hard to believe as the popularity of specialty coffee has grown exponentially.
However, over the last ten years and we have seen the quality of green coffee increase year after year. So why is the industry potentially doomed?
Two big reasons: Environmental practices and the neglected social situation of the Producers globally.
COFFEE & ENVIRONMENT
Unless you’re a lobbyist for the oil industry or one of Trump’s advisors, there is no denying that humans have done irreversible damage to the planet. Climate change is probably the biggest threat we currently face as an industry.
Rising average temperatures mean that land at lower altitudes is becoming increasingly unsuitable for the cultivation of arabica.
A research team from the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens conducted a computer modelling exercise to predict how environmental changes would affect Arabica for the rest of the century.
The forecast was bleak as hell. The number of locations where wild Arabica grows in Ethiopia could decrease by 85% by 2080
In the coffee crisis, the other big issue is money. One big aspect of this is that no one is paying enough, from consumers to roasters, importers and green coffee buyers.
” This is a huge issue and recently the C-price the market-determined value of commodity coffee upon which most purchasing contracts are based – has dropped to its lowest value since 2006.”Matthew Orchard.
THE COFFEE MARKET
The coffee market is operating unsustainably: many producers have to sell their crops at less than the cost of production. while others abandon coffee for more lucrative and sometimes “less legal” crops an easy choice to make.
It’s easy to say that in specialty we pay way over the market value for our coffee and leave it at that feeling pretty good about ourselves.
The reality is that specialty lots make up a relatively small percentage of many farmer’s total production.
Making not enough profit to cover the losses they make from their commodity-grade lots unless they can find a home for those at a fair price.
Do you really want to help? Buy your producer’s entire production.
At the other end of the market, as a roaster, we want to make sure that we make a sustainable profit too.
When we pay more for our green coffee, the cost is passed on to our customers, coffee retail outlets, and the more difficult it is for them to run their businesses in a sustainable way due to the low price ceiling that consumers are willing to pay for a cup of coffee.
Until we move away from the fast-food retail model which specialty has inherited, it’s crazy difficult to run a coffee business on low-value ticket items with huge overheads and labor costs without a really high volume of sales.
By Matthew Orchard
Head Roaster at PLOT Roasting / A ST Trainer / Q Grader