Coffee is under threat as 60% of bean species face extinction

Rob Waugh
Could coffee be under threat? (Getty)

Coffee is under threat from climate change, as up to 60% of wild coffee species are now facing extinction in the wild.

Te worsening crisis could mean the future of the coffee we drink is under threat, as wild species are traditionally used to breed and improve the cultivated beans in the coffee we drink.

Cllimate change is threatening wild Arabica, a species from Ethiopia that has been cultivated to provide most of the multibillion-pound global trade in coffee.

Researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, found that 75 of the world’s 124 wild coffee species are under threat from the loss of forests, climate change and the worsening problem of fungal disease and pests.

The threats facing wild coffee are significant for the future of the coffee we drink: wild varieties have been used to breed and improve the cultivated stock over the years.

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Coffee farmers, who grow either Arabica or Robusta coffee, have already begun to report their crops being affected by changing weather patterns, rising temperatures and new pests and diseases.

The variety of traits found in wild species are likely to be even more important in the future to develop plants that can cope with threats such as longer dry seasons caused by climate change or the spread of pests.

Kew’s head of coffee research Dr Aaron Davis warned: ‘If you start to lose these species the options for developing resilient coffee for the future diminishes very rapidly.”

‘What we’re saying is 60% is just really high, that’s a real wake-up call. For a major global commodity, that starts ringing alarm bells.

‘It’s a tragedy losing any wild species, whether it’s a bird or plant or animal, that’s bad enough.

‘But when you’ve got a crop that supports the livelihoods of 100 million people just in production in coffee farming, then you look at value of high street coffee chains and supermarket coffee, it’s enormous.’

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