Brazil, Climate & Coffee


A worker separates coffee cherries during harvest at a plantation in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state. Brazil’s coffee exports fell to 2.6 million bags in June, a 12 percent drop from a year ago, according to a report last week by Cecafe, the country’s coffee export council. Patricia Monteiro/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Brazil is not a frequent focus of posts on this platform, primarily because we have not had a project there since before this platform began. But we almost certainly will before too long. And the country’s history in leadership, and in retreat, with regard to the environmental vanguard, are always of interest to us. Coffee and climate change are constant topics here, so this item at National Public Radio (USA) has our attention, with Brazil’s approach to saving its coffee from the ravages of climate change as a hook we are intrigued by:

Coffee And Climate Change: In Brazil, A Disaster Is Brewing

Coffee lovers, alert! A new report says that the world’s coffee supply may be in danger owing to climate change. In the world’s biggest coffee-producing nation, Brazil, the effects of warming temperatures are already being felt in some communities.

You can see the effects in places like Naygney Assu’s farm, tucked on a quiet hillside in Espirito Santo state in eastern Brazil. Walking over his coffee field is a noisy experience, because it’s desiccated. The leaves from the plants are curled up all over the floor, in rust-colored piles. The plants themselves are completely denuded.

“We’ve had no rain since last December,” Assu tells me in Portuguese, “and my well dried up. There was nothing we can do, except wait for rain.”

But the rain doesn’t come.

In fact, it’s been three years of drought here in Sao Gabriel da Palha. This region is part of Brazil’s coffee belt. Farmers here have been growing robusta — a coffee bean used in espressos and instant coffee — since the 1950s. Assu says he doesn’t know what to do.

“To be honest, I don’t see a future,” he tells me.

“This year I haven’t been able to pay my debts,” he says. “I owe the bank, but look at my crop — I have no way to pay.”

He’s lost 90 percent of his coffee crop. And he is not the only one. Production of robusta this year is down 30 percent in the state.

“Coffee depends on a lot of water,” says Perseu Perdoná, an agronomist with the local coffee cooperative. And coffee plants are already sensitive to temperature. “Climate change is happening,” he tells me, “we can see it. Add to that deforestation, which means the ground can’t retain water when it rains.”

He fears that in the near future, unless something drastically changes, coffee will disappear from this region.

“This is affecting the production of robusta,” he tells me.


Naygney Assu’s farm in Espirito Santo state in eastern Brazil has suffered from years of droughts. “We’ve had no rain since last December,” says Assu. “And my well dried up. There was nothing we can do, except wait for rain.” Lourdes Garcia-Navarro/NPR

But it’s not just robusta. A new report from Australia’s Climate Institute says coffee production worldwide is in danger because of climate change. It cites a study that says “hotter weather and changes in rainfall patterns are projected to cut the area suitable for coffee in half by 2050.”

This could have a dramatic impact on the communities that depend on coffee production. Perdona tells me families are already going hungry in Sao Gabriel da Palha.

At the headquarters of the local coffee cooperative I am offered, naturally, a cup of coffee made from the beans of local producers…

Read the whole article, or listen here.

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