Brazil’s lack of rainfall this season is so bad some farmers are worried the reserves they keep for the dry season will be exhausted before it even starts.
Other farmers are left with the choice of watering their coffee trees or having water for their home. Searching and digging for wells has become a common discussion among locals.
In the central-southern part of the country, the soil looks parched, with cracked dry earth.
In researching the historical and forecast weather changes at the world banks climate site and USAID, there’s a number of key takeaways.
- Temperatures are forecast to increase by 1 – 2.2 ℃ by 2060
- There’s a marked increase in the number of warm days in winter
- A decrease in rainfall will enlarge areas of desertification and forest fires
- Access to fresh water will be reduced, while risks of flooding increase
The southeastern part of Brazil where a lot of the coffee growing regions are located will be hit badly. Overall the Brazilian Panel on Climate Change reported that Brazil could lose about 11 million hectares of agricultural land by 2030 as a result of climate changes. Download the USAID Climate Risk Profile for Brazil below for more insights.
What is harder to estimate are was risk-assessors term ‘second order’ events. For example, what if after enough agricultural land is lost to drought, export revenues are hit, but so too is domestic food stability.
Already in Brazil, about one-third of the countries 203 million people are food-insecure – a number that will increase as agricultural land is abandoned. This has already happened in Vietnam, the world’s third-largest producer of rice, which banned the export of the staple food to ensure they had enough for their own population.
Brazil may also face a food crisis and would likely ban exports of some products, and possibly incentivise farmers to grow staple crops, which would entice farmers away from coffee growing. This is your editor speculating, but it’s not implausible, and there may be many other second or third-order risks to coffee production that have not been considered.
I’m concerned that, without some positive news to offset the very real risks identified, that quality arabica coffee may in the next few years become a rarer and more expensive speciality.