Many people can tell the time of day based on how many cups of coffee they’ve had. The liquid caffeine fuels 59% of Americans every day, with 71% drinking a cup of coffee at least once per week, according to the National Coffee Association. The International Coffee Organization estimates the global coffee industry to be worth more than $170 billion, and reports that 141.9 million bags of coffee (each 60 kilograms, or about 132 pounds) were produced in the past year. But despite the booming industry and a commodity that many people can’t live without, business will soon need to adapt their models to account for climate changes in the areas where the most coffee is produced. Otherwise, the industry could face sharp price increases as the supply decreases.
Because of coffee’s popularity in the United States and around the world, it’s easy to get attention by saying that prices on the product are going to skyrocket. Any time there’s a hint that a price bump is a possibility, the caffeine dependents of the world get a little more nervous. The central problem with this is that coffee can only be grown in certain climates and temperatures, which is why countries like Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, and Indonesia contain a vast majority of the crop areas.
As with other businesses that are changing their business practices based on environmental concerns, companies involved in the coffee industry are attuned to weather patterns in the areas where their crops are grown. In this case, warmer temperatures in key growing areas are showing that farmers growing Arabica coffee — the high-quality strain of coffee bean that accounts for 70% of the world’s coffee supply — will either need to change processes or change locations completely to contend with a higher heat index.