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UK coffee-drinkers wake up to climate change threat

18 May 2023

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COFFEE-drinkers in the UK fear that their daily caffeine hit could be under threat as climate change is making the lives of producers more difficult, a poll to mark Christian Aid week suggests.

More than half of the 2000 UK adults surveyed by Savanta said that they were worried about the availability of coffee and its rising costs.

An estimated 98 million cups of coffee are drunk in the UK each day, supporting 210,325 jobs. A Christian Aid report of the results said that coffee-producers were facing threats from erratic weather patterns, in the areas where the UK sources most of its coffee: Brazil and Vietnam.

Temperature increases of just 1.5ºC to 2ºC are predicted to result, by the end of the century, in the reduction by more than a half of the land suitable for growing coffee. The higher-quality Arabica coffee bean is less climate-resilient than the cheaper Robusta bean.

Most of those polled supported the taking of more action by the UK Government to reduce the effect of the climate crisis on the UK food-supply chain, including supporting farmers’ diversification.

The CEO of the Mzuzu Coffee Co-operative, in Malawi, Mackson Ng’ambi, said: “Our experience is that, in a year where the early season rains have been poor or non-existent, coffee flowering has also been grossly poor. This is now a frequent recurrence.

“The global coffee pricing should take into consideration that farmers are making more effort to maintain a field of coffee, and hence increased cost of production. If this is not recognised and [does not inform] coffee prices, sadly most growers will abandon coffee farming.

“There is also a need for direct funding that would benefit the small-scale coffee growers, such as access to low-interest financing which is currently not available. If nothing is done, we should forget about coffee in a few years to come.”

Christian Aid’s report Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, published at the start of Christian Aid week on Monday, urges the Government to boost climate finance to support farmers and cancel debts.

The Fairtrade Foundation warned last month that coffee, bananas, and cocoa could become scarce as a result of the climate crisis (News, 10 March). It said that not all British shoppers realised the extent to which extreme or unpredictable weather would make it harder for farmers to grow and sell food in sufficient quantities.

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