As people all over the globe slowly resume the pre-COVID-19 pandemic life, which generally includes a lot of traveling and coffee drinking, something that may ignite a discussion among coffee enthusiasts or even coffee shop owners is the coffee prices increase. Yes, coffee prices increase is happening. And it is happening not just in certain markets, but globally.
Why, you may ask. To put it simply, it all comes down to the fundamental law of supply and demand which, in the coffee business, is heavily impacted by nature, or in this case, by climate change.
So, what is going on in the world?
A third of the world’s coffee is from Brazil which makes Brazil the largest coffee producer worldwide. Unfortunately, Brazil was recently hit by an extreme frost. While frost is actually a natural annual occurrence, the 2021 frost was the worst in two decades. Even Minas Gerais, one of the largest coffee-producing states in Brazil, was heavily impacted.
Frost occurs when the temperature of the air that is ‘in contact’ with the ground drops below the freezing point of water which eventually creates snow and ice. Due to its tropical nature, coffee does not do well in low temperatures, particularly below 5o Celsius. As a matter of fact, sub-zero temperatures are deadly for coffee, because when the temperatures drop below 0o Celsius, black frost will be formed. Unlike white frost which only appears on leaves and does not cause permanent damage, black frost will cause a frost burn. A frost burn can kill the entire plant if it is a young plant that is yet to produce. Now, imagine what an average temperature of -1.2o Celsius can do to over 1 million hectares of coffee. That is exactly what happened in Minas Gerais.
When a coffee tree dies, it cannot easily be replaced by new coffee seeds, because it can take up to five years just to get a decent coffee crop or up to seven years to fully restore maximum coffee production levels. A lot of analysts and experts have commented on how severely devastating the situation is and how it greatly affects global coffee production, hence the global coffee prices increase.
Is the Indonesian market also affected?
If you live in Indonesia, for the past few months you most likely have been experiencing painfully hot weather on some days and erratic rain on other days which makes you question what season we are actually in. Unfortunately, this is also one of the consequences of climate change. Extreme weather does have the possibility of messing up the coffee harvest season and Indonesian coffee farmers have indeed experienced failure in coffee crops previously due to the erratic rain. On the other hand, heat can prolong insects' flying period which enables them to travel a longer distance for a longer period of time. Furthermore, some of the areas cultivated with Arabica beans today may require adaptive measures to mitigate the effects of climate change and, in some areas, coffee farmers may be able to change from Arabica beans to Robusta beans.
Obviously, we, as humans, cannot fight nature. However, what we can do is to adapt with this radical change. Adjustment to coffee farm management, both in technical and organizational aspects, for example, can be a good start to improve local agricultural practices. With support from the government and those working in the private sector, we can probably do something meaningful to lessen the worry of our hard-working local coffee farmers.