Good quality coffee could become a luxury product, priced out of the market. The culprit is climate change, with altered temperatures and rain patterns taking a toll on the conditions in which quality beans are grown and harvested. Drought, unseasonal flooding, hailstorms, disease outbreaks and threats to key pollinators are contributing to a crisis at the very heart of the coffee supply chain.
According to scientific journal Climatic Change, half of the land currently used to produce high-quality coffee could be unproductive by 2050. The crisis is spurring coffee companies into action; “Ensuring the sustainability of the coffee industry requires coffee companies to form direct relationships with their growers. Farmer education, more sustainable techniques and technologies, as well as ongoing research is needed in order to support coffee farmer economies,” says Jonathan Robinson, the founder of South Africa’s first roaster of Certified Fairtrade coffee, Bean There.
Historically, coffee companies have tended to be very fickle in their relationships with growers. If a particular region suffered poor yield, they would take their business elsewhere, often favouring price over quality or relationship. Now, with all quality coffee producing regions of the world under threat, options are more limited and big companies are getting a wake-up call – industry giant Illycaffè estimates that across the industry, around $100-million a year is spent on research and educational programmes aimed at supporting farmers to adapt to climate change.
Bean There have taken this approach since opening their first roastery in 2005; “We’ve worked with some growers for over a decade and have seen them improve the quality of their beans and invest in more sustainable growing practices, water systems and equipment. From the beginning, we wanted to work with co-ops directly to ensure the long-term sustainability of our coffee supplies,” he says.
Paying fair prices motivates farmers to grow their businesses and innovate how and where they grow their crop. “We pay consistent, fair prices for our beans and we conduct regular trips to meet with, receive feedback from and support training programmes for growers in the co-ops we purchase from,” says Robinson.
Bean There only imports beans from African countries, lowering the company’s carbon footprint and supporting local economies rather than importing beans, which are often shipped via Europe or even roasted in Europe before being brought down to South Africa.
Despite the big challenges facing the coffee industry, Robinson is certain that sustainable coffee production is viable in Africa; “We’ve been doing it successfully for 13 years. Africa not only produces the finest quality coffee beans with the best aroma and taste, it is also a continent rich in innovative ideas that support the environment and make coffee production sustainable and affordable for producers, distributers and consumers.”
Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications
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On behalf of:
Jonathan Robinson – founder, Bean There Coffee Company