Climate Change: The End of Your Arabica?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Many University of Ottawa students only make it through paper and exam season with a little help from their friend caffeine. However, at the other end of that caffeine addiction, is a coffee grower who often gets little pay for her hard work growing your coffee beans. Luckily, fair trade coffee has emerged over the years, cutting out middle men and often allowing these hardworking producers to work in better conditions and get paid prices closer to what they need to survive. While, as many international development students will tell you, fair trade is still far from the ideal and often presents a whole new set of barriers for producers, it generally ensures that a little more of your coffee dollar makes it to those who grew it.

With the climate changing, the coffee equation is getting ever more complicated. Higher temperatures are affecting crops and making them flower prematurely, decreasing yield, and thus the amount of money that the producer makes. Growers are searching for creative ways to deal with the changing climate, by moving their plantations to cooler locations and higher elevations; but for many, there is only so far they can move. Some are also combating the temperature raise by switching to more resilient crops. This means that smooth and mild coffees, like the Arabica blend, will become ever scarcer as producers are forced to switch to darker varieties, such as the Robusta. Who knew that the coffee you drink in the morning is affected by what comes out your cars back end?

For fair trade coffee on campus, visit Caf Alt, one of the few places where you are assured a better deal for your coffee producer, not matter what variety you choose.

- tasha

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