ICO: Coffee producers must innovate to face climate change
Bogota – The executive director of the International Coffee Organization (ICO), the Brazilian Vanúsia Nogueira, considers that coffee producers must innovate and diversify in order to face challenges such as the climate crisis for crops.
“We are talking a lot. We have to put things into practice and start projects that can really help producers to feed their sales with more dynamism and with more possibilities to handle major challenges such as the climate crisis,” says Nogueira, the first woman to head the ICO, in an interview with EFE in Bogota.
The climate crisis is one of the challenges faced by the sector because it affects the ideal conditions of temperature, solar radiation, and humidity for the cultivation of coffee, something that is already beginning to be felt in some countries such as Colombia.
According to an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report, “the global increase in temperature will bring with it a considerable reduction in the area suitable for growing coffee, even up to 50% of the total by 2050.”
CHALLENGES FOR THE SECTOR
That is why the ICO, held this week in Bogota, the 134th annual meeting of the International Coffee Council (CIC), the highest authority of that body, also warns about this phenomenon.
The ICO, which brings together 98% of the bean-producing countries and 67% of the consumers, was created in London in 1963 under the auspices of the UN due to the great economic importance of coffee in the economy of many countries.
“The Organization managed for almost 30 years everything related to coffee quotas, but due to all the changes, it is now looking for alternatives to achieve a balance in the entire coffee production chain, as well as to bring the private sector closer to the guild,” she pointed out.
Nogueira recalled that when the quota system was broken and coffee was opened to the free market, “the Organization began to have a much greater responsibility in terms of seeking to improve the living conditions of producers.”
“The message for producers is that they should not stand around waiting for aid to arrive. You have to do; you have to look for new forms of education, look for innovation, you have to be curious,” she says.
CHANGES IN CONSUMPTION AND INFLATION
Regarding beverage consumption, Nogueira said that this would not change in volume because it would fall in stores and restaurants but would increase in homes due to global inflation and the risk of a worldwide recession.
“The return to home consumption is going to be reflected again as when we had it at the beginning of the pandemic, and the challenge is to support the people in the coffee shops, the baristas,” she said.
In this direction, he said that new ways must be sought so that the consumer reaches the supermarket and does not look for coffee only for the price, and this is an “enormous challenge for the sector.”
According to Nogueira, coffee consumption will change due to inflation, a “familiar” issue for Latinos, but “when we talk about Europe, the United States, Japan, for them this is a totally new thing for these generations, and this will unfortunately change the way coffee is consumed.”
FERTILIZER AND CONTAINER CRISIS
The coffee chain -producers, buyers, and consumers- was not unaffected by the fertilizer crisis and the logistic problems that are still present in the world.
In the case of Brazil, he explained, producers of cotton, soybeans, and in general, grains were left with the fertilizers offered by the market.
“That affected coffee growers who use fertilizers because there is a sector that did not have them available. It undoubtedly affected us,” Nogueira said.
The coffee chain also suffered the rigors of the container crisis as links in the sector were broken. Nogueira admits that “logistics have improved a little, but it is still a very big challenge, especially because of the conflicts,” alluding to the one in Ukraine and Russia.
Regarding prices, Nogueira explains that these are still “high,” In general, the pound of coffee has been above 2 dollars in recent times, and they believe that “they will remain so for the next few months.”
However, the industry says it is “at the limit” because its raw material has high costs, while the final consumer is unwilling to pay the right price.
It is a whole chain of shortages because production costs are high, buyers complain about the high prices of coffee, and consumers consider that the cost is also high.
Here, says Nogueira, the ICO has a great challenge because it is necessary to “look for ways to communicate with the consumer” in a differentiated manner “as happens with wines – who arrives at a supermarket, looks and does not necessarily take the cheapest one.”
This is strange because the ICO in this report has no mention of coffee rust a fungus that is collapsing crops around the world. Coffee rust is more of a risk to crops than climate change. There has been little headway in finding a treatment to fight or rid the fungus. The coffee rust has caused prices to increase.