Coffee shortage could be looming, experts say


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Getting your cup of Joe SOON could be more difficult or expensive because coffee bean production is in trouble, leading some experts to worry a coffee shortage could emerge if the trend continues.

It’s estimated that more than two billion cups of coffee are consumed every day worldwide.

For those who love coffee, there’s nothing else like it. Just ask the customers at the Morning Times coffee Shop in downtown Raleigh.

“I couldn’t run without it,” says customer Josh Ramirez. “When I was in high school I could, but now I have to have it in me.”

And customer Emily Hager said coffee is vital in her life.

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“It’s very important,” she said. “I’m a student and I drink it every day.”

But getting that coffee to drink is becoming tougher for the roasters and distributors because crop yields are dropping forcing farmers to work harder to harvest beans.

At Larry’s Beans in Raleigh, they’ve seen the problem first hand with the farmers they’ve worked with for years as harvest times have become unreliable.

“It’s getting harder to pick, harder to harvest and some farmers are flat out losing coffee by hundreds or thousands of pounds,” says Jeremy Behne who is the director of the experimental roast team at Larry’s Beans.

The problem with growing coffee beans is not confined to one country.

“We’ve seen major changes in the growing regions of Colombia, Honduras and Sumatra for our own personal consumption as well as Ethiopia, which has gone from being one of the easiest coffees for us to buy to one of the hardest and most expensive.”

Some of it is due to disease, and some of it is caused by insects.

CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia discovered Coffee is a finicky crop susceptible to even small increases in temperature.

“Coffee has a very tight band of comfort,” says Larry Larson, the owner of Larry’s Beans.

He’s been in business since 1994 and has worked with many of the same farmers for years and tries to stick by them when they suffer crop losses.

Small farmers make up the majority of the world’s coffee growers, and when they lose part their crop they take a huge financial hit. That affects everything from paying their employees to making sure families have money for schooling and medical care.

With climate change one of the concerns for coffee farmers, Larson says he’s trying to help farmers by using specially designed buildings that require less energy to heat, cool and light.

He says the improved process creates fewer greenhouse gasses which he hopes will ultimately helps the farmers he buys beans from.

“I’m not putting as much (greenhouse gasses) in (the atmosphere) and that would be a good thing for coffee farmers.

For coffee farmers, there is no quick fix for a failed crop. When a coffee farmer loses a plant, replacing it takes time.

“Coffee trees take about three years from seedling to maturation,’’ says Behne.

Ultimately roasters say, you are going to have to get used to paying more for your coffee in the future so that farmers can compensate for the loss in production.

Email CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.

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