World Coffee Supply Threatened By Climate Change

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Jim Hanna, Starbucks sustainability director, told The Guardian that climate change is threatening the world coffee supply. Hanna said their farmers were already seeing the effects of a changing climate, with severe hurricanes and more resistant bugs reducing crop yields.

“What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road – if conditions continue as they are – is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain, which is the Arabica coffee bean.”

Starbucks is part of a business coalition that has been pressuring Congress and the Obama administration to act on climate change. Hanna plans to brief members of Congress on climate change and coffee at an event sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Hanna said well-established farms were seeing a drop in crop yield, and that could well discourage growers from cultivating coffee in the future, further constricting supply. “Even in very well established coffee plantations and farms, we are hearing more and more stories of impacts.”

“If we sit by and wait until the impacts of climate change are so severe that is impacting our supply chain then that puts us at a greater risk,” he said.

Starbucks Hypocrisy

Apparently it hasn’t occurred to Mr. Hanna that Starbucks itself is a major contributor to global warming. In fact, not only is Starbucks a major contributor to climate change, because of the company’s voracious appetite for growth and market penetration, Starbucks, like Wal-mart, has destroyed neighborhood businesses (coffee houses) across the nation.

In some neighborhood communities there are two Starbucks in one or two city blocks.

Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world, with 16,850 coffee shops in about 40 countries, including over 11,000 in the United States, over 1,000 in Canada, over 700 in the United Kingdom, and over 150 in Turkey.

The lumber required to build thousands of Starbucks stores, and the paper to manufacture hundreds of thousands of cups and cup holders contributes to the the depletion of the rain forests, which in turn contributes to climate change.

Notwithstanding the company’s alleged conservation efforts, the only way Starbucks can significantly reduce its global carbon footprint is to begin closing stores, and we all now that isn’t going to happen.

While Starbucks has recently closed some stores due to an anemic economy, if the company was sincerely interested in climate change, instead sending Mr. Hanna to Washington to admonish others to act and make sacrifices, Starbucks would begin by announcing store closings to reduce their carbon footprint.

Because ultimately, the company’s paper cup recycling efforts aren’t going to amount to a hill of coffee beans.

Sustainable Coffee Practices

According to Peachy Green, a website devoted to the Green Movement, we should all be drinking coffee grown on a farm that conserves resources, uses no chemicals, and protects the environment.

“Shade-grown coffee typically comes to mind for consumers wishing to purchase an ecologically sound cup of joe. The unique quality of shade-grown beans is that they are harvested from coffee plants grown under the canopy of native, tropical plants (coffee is a crop found in over 60 tropical countries).

“Organic coffee is another component of the ‘green’ coffee choices on the market. In order to protect birds and fragile environments, fertilizers and pesticides are not used in growing organic coffee.”

Another key component of sustainable coffee is whether it is “Fair Trade” certified — a product certification system designed to allow people to identify products that meet agreed environmental, labor and developmental standards.

Among other things, Fairtrade Standards for coffee production includes the following [source]:

*Producer organizations are paid a floor price (Fairtrade Minimum Price) of US 1.40 per pound for Fairtrade certified washed Arabica and US 1.35 for unwashed Arabica, or the market price, if higher.

*For Fairtrade certified organic coffee an extra minimum differential of US 30 cents per pound is being applied.

*A Fairtrade Premium of US 20 cents (with USD 5 cents earmarked for productivity and quality improvements) per pound is added to the purchase price and is used by producer organizations for social and economic investments at the community and organizational level.

*Fairtrade coffee certification is currently only open to small farmer organizations. Small farmers must be organized in organizations which they own and govern.

*Democratic decision making is required. Everybody has equal right to vote.

*Environmental standards restrict the use of agrochemicals and encourage sustainability.

*Pre-export lines of credit are given to the producer organizations. If requested, up to 60 % of the purchase price should be pre-financed to the producer organizations.

*Trade standards aim to encourage fairer negotiations, clarify the role of price fixing, and reduce speculation

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Spence Cooper
Inquisitive foodie with a professional investigative background and strong belief in the organic farm to table movement. Author of Bad Seeds: A FriendsEAT Guide to GMO's. Buy Now!
Spence Cooper


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