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Costa Rica Coffee Farmers Reap Benefits from Global Warming

Coffee Farm in the Mountains
The Doka Estate Coffee Farm Enjoys a High Altitude Near the Poas Volcano.

Coffee has been a large part of Costa Rica’s economy and history. In fact Costa Rica’s first shipment of coffee transcended borders to Colombia in 1820 and it was in 1854 that Costa Rica took on the daunting task of cutting out the exporting middle man and transporting the “grain of gold” to Europe on her own. It was even coffee taxes that financed one of Costa Rica’s greatest architectural treasures, including the National Theater located in the nation’s capital city of San Jose. It is after 188 years of successful coffee production that global warming threatens to change it all.

Costa Rica has always been home to a welcoming and ideal climate and environment when it comes to coffee production. The soils of the tropical oasis are ideal for the distribution of the coffee’s root system, since they are enriched with volcanic ash and contain a degree of slight tropical acidity. The soil also retains humidity and facilitates oxygenation resulting in the growth of some of the world’s best coffee. Even the country’s strikingly beautiful mountain region has dedicated itself to this famed agricultural bread winner.

In altitudes ranging anywhere from 3,280 to 5,580 feet above sea level over 70% of Costa Rica’s coffee is produced in the mountain region. Temperatures there are ranging anywhere from 63 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit and prove to be ideal for coffee production. The rainfall in the mountainous area is also ideal and the sunlight is stable, however, all of these successful variables are threatened as global warming changes our climate world wide.

Recently in Uganda a United Nations study discovered that the area of land suitable for coffee production would have to be cut back drastically with even a mere increase of temperature. The climate change could also bring other discouraging obstacles for coffee farmers in Costa Rica other than temperature alterations.

Unusually colder temperatures as well as dry spells at unseasonable times can put coffee growing at lower elevations at risk. The warmer weather brought on by global warming can also put the prized plants at risk of insects that thrive in warmer weather.

Patricia Ramirez, an acclaimed scientist working for the Central American Integration System believes that “increases in the frequency of dry cycles that reduce the effect of cold on plants could favor the proliferation of fungus like the leaf rust coffee fungus.” The disease attacks young fruit and buds as well as leaves making a healthy coffee bean nearly impossible. A similar strand of rust infected Brazil’s coffee crop in 1970 creating a devastating decline in coffee production in the region.

Some of the alleged effects of global warming are already doing damage around the world. Guatemala experienced strong gusts of wind that unexpectedly damaged production this year and Brazil even experienced a severe drought that damaged crops and reduced yields as well. However, the changes in climate are not coming as all bad news for all local farmers in Costa Rica.

The rising temperatures are actually presenting Costa Rican coffee farmers with preferred alternatives. Specialty roasters, such as Starbucks and other high dollar coffee enterprises, prefer hard-bean Arabica coffee that can only be found at high altitudes.

An Agronomist for the Coopedota Coffee Cooperative, Daniel Urena, said that coffee plants have usually not survived above 5,906 feet, however, now that the temperature has increased, mountainous land that had once been far too cold and inhospitable for one of Costa Rica’s finest agricultural gems, has now become the prime Costa Rica Real Estate for coffee growing.

It is predicted, according to the United Nations, that due to human emissions of greenhouse gases the earth’s surface temperature could rise anywhere between 1.8 and 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years. Costa Rica is already seeing the difference since farmers can now plant at 6,562 feet. “We didn’t plant there before,” Urena said.

Although the effects seem to have a positive influence in the Costa Rican coffee industry, farmers and growers around the world should still be precautious when it comes to the ever-changing climate. It is advised that growers increase the number of shade trees in coffee fields to protect the valuable fruit from both stronger than usual rains and winds. If we can ban together globally to help prevent global warming and counteract the changes we are already seeing daily, we might be able to preserve the world and the climate as we know it. In the meantime it’s crucial that we educate the public about these changes and methods to help reduce and counteract them.

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Written by Keyea Caullette

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