Are Coffee and Avocados in Short Supply?Ariann Hamilton
There is a growing international concern over the security of numerous tropical crops, including coffee, avocados, cashews, and oil palm. Researchers suggest that while the booming global coffee market is projected to reach over US$144 billion by 2025 , the industry faces the risk of collapse due to the impending environmental effects of climate change. In this article, we explore the climatic factors that threaten tropical farming and the future of these critical crops.
How the Current Climate Crisis Threatens Tropical Crops
Most studies that examine the relationship between climate change and food security focus on temperate ecosystems that support crops such as wheat, maize, and potatoes. However, climate change poses an even greater threat to tropical ecosystems near the equator.
A 2020 study found that half the world’s tropical plant species may struggle to germinate by 2050 .
Plants can only germinate within specific temperature ranges according to their biology. Crops growing in the heat of the tropics are already approaching their upper limits for successful seed germination. Even minor temperature increases may have adverse effects on seed production, causing exponentially smaller yields that may not be viable for mass cultivation.
The climate crisis could make many of the world’s prime tropical crop-growing regions unsuitable for commercial farming. A recent study found that Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer, could lose 79% of the area suitable for coffee farming under a moderate climate change scenario. Climatic disruptions could also accelerate the spread of diseases that pose extinction threats to many tropical crops.
Can We Save Coffee From Extinction?
Numerous studies present high extinction risks for wild varieties of popular tropical crops, including coffee and avocados . Conserving crop wild relatives (CWR) is crucial to the survival of the domesticated version of the plant during climatic disruptions. Using genetic material from a food crop’s wild relative may help scientists develop resilient hybrid crops more suited to a changing natural environment.
Making the coffee industry more profitable for farmers is another approach to saving the species from extinction. Many tropical crops originate from developing countries where growers are often unfairly compensated for their produce. Droughts and natural disasters directly affect the livelihoods of many third-world farmers, often causing them to uproot and abandon their coffee crops for a more profitable monoculture.
Monoculture farming only intensifies the effects of climate change due to soil degradation and deforestation. Introducing fair trade pricing may help growers invest in responsible farming practices, such as using environmentally-friendly pesticides to protect biodiversity and water quality. Sustainable agriculture reduces further environmental damage and promotes continued food security.
Eating Sustainably to Combat Climate Change
The rise of the Farm to Fork movement illustrates how consumers are prioritizing sustainable food options that preserve local communities and the natural environment.
The food and beverage industry is vital in the fight against the adverse effects of human-driven climate change. Using ethically- and locally-sourced, certified-organic ingredients can help manufacturers and processors create products with a lower environmental impact. Increasing the overall production of sustainable goods helps combat the global climate crisis that threatens our food security.
Impending climatic changes threaten many of the world’s most important tropical crops. Protecting their closest wild relatives and ensuring fair grower compensation may help mitigate extinction risks and protect fragile ecosystems and economies. The food industry plays a significant role in encouraging sustainable food production and consumption patterns to combat climate change.
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