Trouble brewing for coffee market

THE GLOBAL coffee market faces serious challenges to supply in the next decade, including the “very real” risk of shortages.


Global consumption of coffee has doubled over the last 40 years to eight million tonnes and consumers now drink 1.6 billion cups of coffee a day. While the continued global economic crisis has put the brakes on growth in Europe and the US, demand for coffee is still rising in emerging economies such as Brazil, India and Eastern Europe.


But the effects of climate change on coffee production together with the economic crisis, rising production costs and volatile prices could to lead to a worldwide shortage of coffee, according to a new briefing from the Fairtrade Foundation.
Despite higher global market prices, the benefits of coffee growing are failing to trickle down to the poorest farmers who are unable to invest in improving quality and productivity and who receive just 7%-10% of the retail value of their coffee.


The spread of pests and disease, higher temperatures, erratic rains or periods of drought are disrupting production, while some areas may become unsuitable for growing coffee altogether.


The Fairtrade Foundation is therefore urging the coffee industry to actively invest in sustainable supply chains.


“Steady growth in demand for coffee should mean better times ahead for farmers. But decades of low and unstable coffee prices have left a legacy of indebted farmers who lack the technical support and finance to invest in improving productivity and quality,” said director of communiations and policy Barbara Crowther.


“With climate change now also threatening shortfalls in production and higher prices, it is more important than ever that manufacturers, retailers and consumers support coffee growers in ensuring a sustainable supply of a commodity enjoyed by millions of people around the world.”



Many companies recognise that Fairtrade can be part of the solution by providing additional income for farmers to invest in more sustainable farming practices, improving quality, planting drought- and pest- resistant varieties, improving the efficiency of their businesses and implementing projects that benefit the wider community. By helping to ensure decent incomes for farmers, companies can also help ensure their businesses will have a long-term supply of quality coffee, she added.

1 Response

  1. robynkimber

    Really interesting article, ensuring a fair income is important and a fundamental practice and the farmers can then choose how they spend that premium – be it on schools, transport systems or farming methods. At Cafédirect on top of the social premium we have direct relationships so that we really understand the problem on the ground and develop tailor-made strategies. We then invest in the technical expertise and training to empower the farmers so that they are able to implement these on the ground. For something as huge as climate change, a social premium unfortunately isn’t enough. Our business model is based on putting the grower at the heart of the business and strengthening their business as a result.

    One recent project we ran around climate change was run in Peru. We worked to find a way to finance adaptation to climate change through the carbon market. We set up a reforestation project in above some of our coffee suppliers, which through carbon credits funds adaptation on the farms. This innovative project, that achieves something that no other has yet managed, will hopefully provide a blueprint for others to follow suit in finding new ways to fund adaptation.