Your morning cup of coffee may soon be delivering an extra jolt at the cash register as Brazil endures its worst drought in a century, Arabica plants fail to fruit, and wholesale bean prices soar.
Wholesale coffee prices surged to nearly US$1.70 per pound last week, 60% higher than this time last year, reports CBC News.
Producing around 33% of the global supply of coffee beans, the southern half of the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais normally receives significant rainfall from January to April, moisture which coffee plants soak up thirstily in advance of drier winter months. But this year, the rains never came.
Kona Haque, head of research with London-based agricultural commodities trader EDF & Man, told CBC the absence of precipitation has left the region’s coffee plants unable to “flourish and blossom.”
Compounding the concerns about supply, the drought arrived just as the coffee crop was entering the low point of a natural biennial cycle of feast and famine which finds plants bearing heavily only every second year.
While the unseasonable frost that hit Minas Gerais last week largely spared the southern state’s coffee growing regions, Haque added that the sudden drop in temperatures is part and parcel of increasingly erratic weather, uncertain harvests, and equally jittery prices for the consumer.
CBC says the price of a cup of coffee has increased as much as 17% for grocery store brands since January, while artisanal coffee outlets like Propeller Coffee in Toronto have upped their cups by around 5%. The price increases will hit small shops like Propeller particularly hard, CBC adds, as they are only just beginning to recover from a pandemic-induced plunge in off-the-street traffic—and because “COVID-19 has increased the cost of just about everything, including supplies like filters and machines, and transportation costs.”
A combination of La Niña and the climate crisis appears to be driving the epic drought. Phys.org adds that Amazon deforestation of the Amazon as significantly compounding the latter, as the destruction of large swathes of the “Cloud Forest”—where the Amazon literally creates its own precipitation—means far less rain is falling.