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It looks like a worldwide coffee shortage is inevitable

Ruh roh...

DAVID NIELD
23 DEC 2015
 

If you rely on a good cup of coffee to get you through the morning, you might want to stock up: it looks like we'll soon be experiencing a shortage of beans that make up one of the world's most popular hot beverages. The latest coffee production figures are in, and while there's set to be a slight increase this year, it's down to a perfectly aligned combination of factors that isn't going to last much longer.

The main problem is Brazil: while the country typically supplies 50 million bags per annum, a severe and ongoing drought cut its coffee production by a whopping 5 million bags last year. As the South American nation produces one-third of the world's coffee, any shortfall is going to be felt around the world.

 

So why is coffee production expected to rise this year? According to the global coffee production report published by the Foreign Agricultural Service, it's thanks to record levels of output from Indonesia and Honduras, as well as a recovering market in Vietnam - the second biggest coffee supplier behind Brazil. The bean-growing conditions in these countries are just about as perfect as they're ever going to be right now, so the surplus that's being generated is compensating for Brazil's struggles.

Unfortunately, this can't go on forever. It's likely that Indonesia and Honduras's record-breaking coffee output will dip before Brazil can fully recover from its drought. Add to that the rise in coffee consumption across the globe - particularly in developing markets such as Brazil, China, and India - and we could soon be looking at a situation where demand is outstripping supply.

Not only are more people drinking coffee, more people are drinking better-quality coffee. As Jia Lynn Yang from The Guardian reported last year, crop yields are down and prices are already rising because of the conditions in Brazil, which are also affecting sugar production. And the unpredictable effects of climate change could make the situation worse.

"Regardless of what happens in Brazil now … we will see higher prices and more competition for higher-quality coffee," Kim Elena Ionescu, a coffee buyer for North Carolina-based coffee roasting company Counter Culture, told Yang.

Industry experts think that coffee production needs to rise by 40 to 50 million bags over the next 10 years to keep up with demand, with the 2015/2016 output expected to be in the region of 150 million bags.

"Sooner or later, in months or years, we'll have to make a bold decision about what to do," Italian coffee roaster Andrea Illy told Bloomberg recently. "We don't know where this coffee will come from."

If production does indeed drop in the coming years, we might have to look elsewhere for an artificial boost of wakefulness in the morning. Although on the plus side, we'd probably all be sleeping much more soundly.

H/T: Gizmodo

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