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Brazilian Buzzkill: Coffee Crop At Risk Due to Climate Change

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Climate change projections for Brazil’s finicky Arabica coffee crop show a rainy season shift that could threaten the crop’s flowering period and, ultimately, yields. A coffee plant’s flowering is an important indicator of potential yield as the fruiting bodies produced during this stage eventually become coffee cherries. 

Brazil is the largest Arabica coffee producer and exporter, providing the world with more than a third of its Arabica coffee beans. And traditionally, Brazil’s Arabica crop’s September-October flowering period follows the onset of the region’s rainy season. 

But, by 2050, climate projections show a considerably different temperature and precipitation pattern.   

By 2050, during Brazil’s crop’s critical September-October flowering period, the number of days above 34°C, a threshold where yield and quality issues arise, is projected to increase by up to 10 days per month. Additionally, September-October rainfall totals in Brazil’s Arabica coffee-growing regions are projected to decline by 10% by mid-century. 

For our analysis, we used the Gro Climate Ensemble Model’s “middle of the road” warming scenario, SSP2-4.5, and its “medium-to-high” warming scenario, SSP3-7.0. The Gro Climate Ensemble, which was developed by our in-house team of climate and data scientists, uses raw climate data provided by a subset of labs that participated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest global climate change report to produce climate forecasts that reflect the collective knowledge of the world’s top climate research labs.  

Arabica coffee crops are highly susceptible to weather volatility. For example, Brazilian coffee trees are still recovering from 2021’s severe drought and unexpected late season frosts, which we wrote about here and here

Current coffee prices also reflect the crop’s weather sensitivity. Futures coffee prices are at 182.20 cents per pound of green coffee, up 26% since heavy rains hit Minas Gerais, Brazil's largest coffee-growing region, in January and February. During these months, Minas Gerais recorded its highest rainfall totals in two decades. 

As the season progresses, Gro users can use the Climate Risk Navigator for Agriculture to monitor how growing conditions are affecting Brazil’s main coffee-producing regions.

Brazil’s next coffee harvest begins in April, concluding in August.  

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