Percolating the impacts of climate on coffee

As a nation of avid coffee drinkers, we often complain about the rise in coffee prices, but have you ever stopped to think about where those extra dollars are coming from?

Brazil, Costa Rica and Columbia are all synonymous with coffee production, so it may be a surprise to learn that Vietnam has grown to be the second largest coffee producer in the world.

Vietnam’s coffee industry generates over 1 million jobs.

Approximately 80 per cent of the country’s coffee is produced in the Central Highlands regions. However, an increase in seasonal variations, water shortages, and extreme climatic events have all had a major influence on the production and forward-selling of Vietnam's coffee crop. This not only impacts Vietnamese farmers but also roasters, traders, and ourselves as consumers.

USQ researchers have developed new seasonal climate weather forecasting systems to help the coffee industry manage climate risks.
Coffee is the world’s second most traded commodity.

Without being able to successfully predict how much coffee can be produced and sold, the industry is often unable to meet the demand or sell their crop at competitive prices. 

From drought to flooding rains

Helping to keep the world’s population well-caffeinated, researchers at USQ’s Centre for Applied Climate Sciences have developed new seasonal climate weather forecasting systems (PDF 2MB) to help the industry manage climate risks.

By issuing monthly advanced seasonal weather forecasts to the second-largest coffee trader in the world, ECOM Agro-Industrial (Asia), farmers have been empowered to conserve precious resources and make improved water management decisions. The flow-on effect? Improved overall water conservation, saving on average 1-2 irrigation events per season.

Understanding the links between seasonal climate and coffee bean production, in a country such as Vietnam also provides useful information for future exports and other management decisions for this industry.

A healthy plantation is also dependent on soil health, improved fertisilser management and application decisions lead to 5-10% savings on fertilisers, fewer fertiliser application events as well as more timely application. Soil erosion rates have also decreased with the impact of this project.

With greater insights, coffee growers are also able to make better marketing decisions around timing and how much to sell, allowing them to sell their product at competitive prices. This has resulted in increased income for producers with net returns increasing from $1600 to $2200/ha in the last two years.

Importantly, information on production forecasting has also been shared with other supply chain partners on likely product availability and pricing, enabling market and contractual obligations to be met through informed buying/selling decisions.

Forecasting improves industry productivity 

Advances in seasonal climate forecasts, when integrated with crop production systems, can greatly improve industry preparedness and productivity. This research aims to assist farmers in coffee growing regions as well as other stakeholders in the supply chain, meaning it will eventually find its way back to your cup in the near future. This is good news for those who rely on the culinary ritual of the morning brew.

Be part of industry transformation

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