Coffee News Club: Week of October 10th

The climate crisis continues to ravage coffee crops in Colombia, Brazil, and Kenya. And yet, big conglomerates continue to expand unabated and unphased.  

‘Colombia’s 2022 Coffee Output Could Hit Lowest Since 2014’ – via Reuters

The Colombian coffee federation reported that Colombia’s coffee production in 2022 will reach an eight-year low. The fall in output comes from excessive rain caused by the La Niña weather phenomenon, exacerbated by the effects of climate change. 

“In Colombia, we’ve now gone 26 months where the monthly rainfall has exceeded the historical average,” said Roberto Velez of the National Federation of Coffee Growers (FNC). “That is accompanied by cloudiness and a lack of sun, which decreases production.”

International coffee prices remain very high while the value of Colombia’s peso has dropped, which should favor exports. Velez expects Colombia to export 11.5 to 12 million 60-kilogram bags by the end of 2022—the lowest projections since 2014. The world’s third-largest producer of coffee, Colombia exported 12.6 million bags in 2021.

Increased costs of agricultural inputs due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine could see fertilizer use drop by a fifth, further affecting production.

However, Velez is cautiously optimistic. Coffee plants are healthy, and there’s not as much rain anticipated for the next growing season. Colombia can potentially produce up to 14 million bags of coffee. 

Read the full story here.

‘Brazil’s Weather-Damaged Coffee Trees Will Take Years to Recover’ – via Bloomberg

Over in Brazil, coffee trees show signs of debilitating damage after two years of stress from frost and drought. Although rain in September helped trees blossom at the start of the new harvest season, some trees are losing leaves or producing oddly-shaped flowers, while coffee cherries are falling before ever having a chance to grow or ripen.

“Coffee trees have a good memory,” said agronomist Éder Ribeiro dos Santos of the coffee cooperative Cooxupe. “They are resentful of all the bad they experienced over the past two seasons.”

More regular rains will bring some relief in the coming months, but drought and frost effects will remain until 2023. It’ll be challenging to forecast worldwide coffee supply for 2023: Brazil’s coffee stockpiles set a benchmark for the international commodity price. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, they’re currently at their lowest levels in decades.

Read the full story here or here on Yahoo! News.

‘Kenya: Coffee Production to Drop This Year Due to Climate Change’ – via All Africa

It’s similar in Kenya, where coffee production could fall “drastically” this year due to climate change-driven weather patterns.

Inadequate rainfall and an extended cold season in most coffee-growing regions have affected flowering, according to agronomist Wangai Ndumia. “For coffee trees to properly flower, there ought to be three consecutive months of adequate sunlight,” Ndumia said. “This did not happen this year.”

Although production has declined by 40% since the 1980s, coffee is still vital to Kenya’s economy. According to the International Coffee Association, as of 2019, Kenya had about 800,000 smallholder coffee farmers, and the sector employed an estimated five million people. However, the climate crisis continues to impact farmers, pushing them to replace their coffee plants with other, more stable crops.

Read the full story here.

Let’s compare these stories about falling production and the impacts of climate change with what has been happening at the other end of the supply chain in just the past week. Several brands announced huge plans for expansion, including: 

  • Dunkin’ is “continuing its rapid expansion in Saudi Arabia” and projects operating 600 stores in the region by the end of the year—including the 30 stores they opened in one single day
  • Reborn Coffee is “eyeing US and international growth” after a recent multi-million-dollar IPO
  • Canada chain Good Earth Coffeehouse is “planning to grow its store footprint by more than 25% in the next six months.” 
  • The decaffeinated coffee market is forecasted to grow at a compound annual rate of 7.28%

Where will the coffee needed for all these projects come from? 

More News

‘Almost a Luxury’: EU Coffee Prices up 16.9% in August’ – via Reuters

‘Cxffeeblack’s New Sneaker Is Funding A Barista Exchange Program’ – via Sprudge

‘Coffee Holding Company Enters Merger Agreement with Logistics Company Delta’ – via Daily Coffee News

‘Amsterdam Considers Banning’ Cannabis Tourists’ From its Coffee Shops’– via the Guardian

‘M&M’s Announces Caramel Cold Brew Flavor & People Are Already Being Weird’ – via Sprudge

‘Fellow Unveils Next Generation of Stagg EKG Gooseneck Kettles’ – via Daily Coffee News

‘Melbourne Archaeological Dig Traces its Coffee Culture Back to 1850s’ – via Global Coffee Report

The Week in Coffee Unionizing

  • Starbucks fired a union activist for refusing to remove an anti-suicide pin. Will Westlake, a prominent organizer from Buffalo, said he was sent home dozens of times for violating the company dress code after he and others at his store began wearing the pin in memory of a coworker who died by suicide earlier this year. Starbucks Workers United has filed a complaint protesting Westlake’s firing. 
  • Four US Senators asked Starbucks how much the company has spent on lawyers and consulting fees in response to the ongoing unionization movement. Starbucks is “weaponizing benefits and wage increases to discourage workers from organizing,” signee Elizabeth Warren, senator for Massachusetts, told Reuters.
  • In non-Starbucks news, workers at Colorado mini-chain Brewing Market Coffee overwhelmingly voted in favor of forming a union. Workers said they were seeking better working conditions, pay, and benefits. “I think history will look back on us for being part of the change future generations will benefit from,” barista Olivia Schmich said. “Knowing that makes this all worth it.”

The Week in Corporate Coffeewashing

Honestly, this one took me by surprise. 

Here’s the headline from Reuters: ‘Nestle pledges $1 billion to coffee sustainability plan.’ Bloomberg, meanwhile, goes with: ‘Nestle Commits $1 Billion to Protect Coffee from Climate Threat.’

Nescafé, the coffee arm of Nestlé, released a sustainability plan called Nescafé Plan 2030. In the report, the company says it will provide, among other things, training and cash incentives to encourage its producers “who take on the risks and costs associated with the move to regenerative agriculture.”

That is clearly good: putting actual money to work fixing the climate iniquities and fragilities within the coffee supply chain is sorely needed (as long as you ignore Nestlé’s role in many of these issues to begin with).

Nestlé is the world’s biggest coffee company, according to Bloomberg, and has considerable influence over the industry. At the very least, the announcement creates a benchmark for other companies to follow.

The announcement contrasts Nespresso’s ad campaign starring George Clooney, discussed last week, to “highlight the threat posed by climate change to coffee production” and “empower these communities to build financial and environmental resilience.” Clooney was reportedly paid $40 million to act as Nestlé’s brand ambassador.

Of course, Nestlé will have to prove the impact its money has on coffee producers’ lives and climate resilience. How will we ever know? Is $1 billion even enough when you consider that Nestlé’s coffee products brought in revenue of $25 billion in 2021 alone? We’ll have to wait and see.

Is Coffee Good For You?

It is—and not just one part of you. A new study has found that high coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of 30 medical conditions. 30!

Published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study gathered information on nearly 400,000 participants from the research database UK Biobank. It examined the relationship between high coffee intake (more than four cups per day) and the risk of various medical conditions, with low coffee intake (1-3 cups) as a reference.

The results showed four major clusters of medical conditions, mainly in the cardiometabolic and gastrointestinal systems, with one cluster following alcohol-related disorders, primarily among men, and a cluster of estrogen-related conditions among women.

The conditions mentioned included diabetes, gout, hypertension, liver cirrhosis, breast cancer, and gallstones. Noting coffee’s well-known antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory nature, the researchers commented, “our findings support the notion that the potential health benefits of habitual coffee consumption may be mainly attributable to coffee’s impact on the cardiometabolic and gastrointestinal systems.”

Beyond the Headlines

‘Is a Living Wage Valuable—Or Even Viable For The Coffee Industry?’ by Valorie Clark
‘When Coffee Farmers Face Crises, Farmworkers Suffer Most’ by Quinn Kepes and Miguel Zamora
‘The Fourth Wave Of Coffee Is…Not Coming.’ by Ashley Rodriguez

Coffee News Club is written by Fionn Pooler and the Fresh Cup editorial team.