Coffee producers place faith in regenerative agriculture

31 August 2021
video

Renowned Italian coffee brand Illycaffe has announced its plan to go zero carbon by 2033, with regenerative agriculture practices sees as the pathway to achieving that aim. The company’s Arabica coffee beans are sourced mainly from Brazil but also Colombia, India, Africa and Central America.

Coffee producers are acting in the context of global warming, with rising temperatures influencing varying threats to coffee crops. The potential for droughts is increasing as well as a surge in diseases that kill pollinating insects necessary for coffee to grow.

Long-term approach to securing coffee’s future

Producers like Illycaffe have come around to the belief that a long-term approach is required to arrest the problem, with regenerative agroforestry a high priority in the list of solutions. This is a process in which native plants, trees and shrubs are deliberately integrated into farming systems to increase soil nutrients, encourage biodiversity and act as natural pesticides and herbicides for other flora within the system.

By increasing cover crops, doing less tilling, and ultimately focusing on soil health to trap carbon (sequester) in soils, coffee producers believe that costs in the short term can be offset by using fewer, expensive inputs in the long term. Until now, to maintain production capacity, fertilisers and irrigation were essential expenses in production. However poor water management and the damaging nature of harmful fertilisers and pesticides are being edged out by a sustainable approach.

Big food companies backing regenerative practices

Aside from coffee, the largest food and beverage companies in the world are investing in regenerative agriculture. Nestlé is investing around $1.4 billion over the next five years in regenerative agriculture across its supply chain, with Danone also targeting the area for more funding. Smaller premium brands are also launching their own sustainability schemes.

Another French company, organic chocolate maker Alter Eco, which sources its cocoa beans from Ecuador, Peru and the Dominican Republic, plans to invest up to $10 million to convert its total 20,000 acres of farmland into regenerative agriculture.

Coffee producers will hope their investment in sustainable practices pay off. According to the 2020 World Coffee Research annual report, 47% of global coffee production comes from countries that could lose over 60% of suitable coffee lands by the year 2050 due to climate change. These countries lie between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, an area known as the Coffee Belt, but if warming conditions continue to increase, coffee will potentially have to be grown in new, more accommodating regions.

But that is not a simple transition as it would require significant tree planting, economic fallout to traditional growing communities and national economies. In addition, some crop varieties may not be suited to different geographies. For example, the arabica blend is more fruitful in mountainous areas and may not necessarily take to an area where those mountainous conditions aren’t replicated even if all other conditions are satisfied.

Columbia University’s Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment published research in 2019 which asserted that up to three-quarters of the land currently used to grow Arabica will no longer be suitable for the crop if global warming continues to escalate. It is very much a race against time as the scientists estimate this scenario will kick in if the average temperature in coffee-growing areas goes up 2.8 degrees Celsius. It has already risen 1.5°C in those regions, which explains the increasing activity around regeneration, as growers look to protect what is their most important coffee species.

Learn more about Farrelly & Mitchell’s Food & beverage expertise

Coffee producers place faith in regenerative agriculture

31 August 2021

Renowned Italian coffee brand Illycaffe has announced its plan to go zero carbon by 2033, with regenerative agriculture practices sees as the pathway to achieving that aim. The company’s Arabica coffee beans are sourced mainly from Brazil but also Colombia, India, Africa and Central America.

Coffee producers are acting in the context of global warming, with rising temperatures influencing varying threats to coffee crops. The potential for droughts is increasing as well as a surge in diseases that kill pollinating insects necessary for coffee to grow.

Long-term approach to securing coffee’s future

Producers like Illycaffe have come around to the belief that a long-term approach is required to arrest the problem, with regenerative agroforestry a high priority in the list of solutions. This is a process in which native plants, trees and shrubs are deliberately integrated into farming systems to increase soil nutrients, encourage biodiversity and act as natural pesticides and herbicides for other flora within the system.

By increasing cover crops, doing less tilling, and ultimately focusing on soil health to trap carbon (sequester) in soils, coffee producers believe that costs in the short term can be offset by using fewer, expensive inputs in the long term. Until now, to maintain production capacity, fertilisers and irrigation were essential expenses in production. However poor water management and the damaging nature of harmful fertilisers and pesticides are being edged out by a sustainable approach.

Big food companies backing regenerative practices

Aside from coffee, the largest food and beverage companies in the world are investing in regenerative agriculture. Nestlé is investing around $1.4 billion over the next five years in regenerative agriculture across its supply chain, with Danone also targeting the area for more funding. Smaller premium brands are also launching their own sustainability schemes.

Another French company, organic chocolate maker Alter Eco, which sources its cocoa beans from Ecuador, Peru and the Dominican Republic, plans to invest up to $10 million to convert its total 20,000 acres of farmland into regenerative agriculture.

Coffee producers will hope their investment in sustainable practices pay off. According to the 2020 World Coffee Research annual report, 47% of global coffee production comes from countries that could lose over 60% of suitable coffee lands by the year 2050 due to climate change. These countries lie between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, an area known as the Coffee Belt, but if warming conditions continue to increase, coffee will potentially have to be grown in new, more accommodating regions.

But that is not a simple transition as it would require significant tree planting, economic fallout to traditional growing communities and national economies. In addition, some crop varieties may not be suited to different geographies. For example, the arabica blend is more fruitful in mountainous areas and may not necessarily take to an area where those mountainous conditions aren’t replicated even if all other conditions are satisfied.

Columbia University’s Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment published research in 2019 which asserted that up to three-quarters of the land currently used to grow Arabica will no longer be suitable for the crop if global warming continues to escalate. It is very much a race against time as the scientists estimate this scenario will kick in if the average temperature in coffee-growing areas goes up 2.8 degrees Celsius. It has already risen 1.5°C in those regions, which explains the increasing activity around regeneration, as growers look to protect what is their most important coffee species.

Learn more about Farrelly & Mitchell’s Food & beverage expertise

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