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29 November 2012 | Adam Leach
Arabica coffee plants could cease to exist within this century as a result of climate change, pests and diseases, according to research.
The Impact of Climate Change on Indigenous Arabica Coffee (Coffea arabica): Predicting Future Trends and Identifying Priorities, a joint study conducted by scientists from Ethiopia and the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew in the UK concluded that due to climate change, the global supply of arabica coffee, which makes up 70 per cent of global coffee exports, could continually decrease over the century to the point of extinction.
The report explained coffee prices have been at 30-year highs in recent months and they would continue to remain high - or even increase - if climate conditions continue to reduce the amount produced.
The study combined computer modelling with existing data on the species to analyse both where it will grow and how much of it will grow in 2020, 2050, and 2080. It concluded by 2080, the number of pre-existing bioclimatically suitable localities would be reduced by, at best 65 per cent, and at worst, 99.7 per cent. In the area covered, it predicted a best-case reduction of 38 per cent and a worst-case reduction of 90 per cent.
Aaron Davis, head of coffee research at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said: “The extinction of arabica coffee is a startling and worrying prospect. However, the objective of the study was not to provide scaremonger predictions for the demise of arabica in the wild. The scale of the predictions is certainly cause for concern but should be seen more as a baseline, from which we can more fully assess which actions are required.”
The majority of arabica coffee is produced in Colombia, Kenya and Ethiopia.