Coffee (Coffea arabica/Coffea canephora)

Coffee PlantCoffee (Coffea L.) is the world’s favorite non-alcoholic beverage and the second-most traded global commodity after oil.

Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica L.) and robusta coffee (C. canephora Pierre ex A.Froehner) are the two main species used in the production of coffee, although the former is by far the most significant, providing approximately 70% of commercial production. The productivity (green bean yield) of Arabica is tightly linked to variety, management practice and climatic variability.

According to the International Coffee Organization (ICO), world production in coffee year 2018/19 is estimated at 169 million 60-kg bags, which is 5.4% greater than in 2017/18. Production of Robusta increased by 11% in 2018/19 to 70.67 million bags. Arabica production rose by 1.7% to 98.33 million bags, as declines from Honduras, Mexico, and Peru offset the increase from Brazil.

The United States is currently the world’s largest market for coffee. Global annual consumption per capita is 4‒5 kg on average. According to the latest coffee statistics from the ICO, we drink about 1.4 billion cups of coffee a day worldwide. Coffee producers in Africa accounted for about 12% of global supply and less than 11% of global exports of the product for 2017.

The coffee plant or tree is a woody perennial tree crop. Coffee beans are the seeds of the coffee plant, which are found inside the coffee berry or cherries. The coffee beans are processed and brewed into the coffee we drink. As with most crops, coffee is beset with insect pest and disease problems such as the coffee berry borer, coffee berry disease, white coffee stem borer, coffee wilt disease, parasitic nematodes, root mealy bug, green scales, leaf rust, and brown eye spot. Some can be very serious and can have a major impact not only on individual farmers but on the economy of countries or regions heavily dependent on coffee for foreign exchange earnings and importing countries worldwide.

Coffee production is labor-intensive from pre-planting to post-planting operations. It takes four years for a coffee plant to yield fruit and five to six years to produce optimal yields at highland tropical areas. Of the two main types of coffee, arabica has lower caffeine content, a milder taste and cup quality and thus tends to be more expensive, while the higher yielding robusta is widely used in instant coffee and in stronger roasts. Coffee is a tropical plant but robusta can be grown at sea level, and arabica does best at higher altitudes and is typically grown in highland tropical and sub-tropical areas.

Around 125 million people worldwide depend on the coffee industry for their livelihoods.

The volatility of coffee markets in combination with poor production and marketing infrastructure and services have put the majority of coffee producers in developing countries in low-input-low-output cycles and structural poverty. This combined with growing demands for healthier and more socially and environmentally friendly produced coffee in larger consumer countries has led to the certification of cooperatives worldwide.

Agricultural research and development is needed to increase quantity and supply quality coffees to consumers. There is a disparity between coffee producing countries and coffee consuming countries. Dem and for coffee including specialty coffee is outstripping supply. Very little research has been done to produce quality coffee or protect the coffee supply and value chains from economic, climatic, or pest and disease threats.

Climate change has wiped out millions of coffee trees. Colder nights, hotter days and unpredictable rains combined with more pests and diseases are affecting many smallholder farmers in developing countries. Scientists have found that an increase of 1°C can lead to a yield loss of almost 100 kg/ha or 20% of current yield. Growing coffee and banana or other companion crops preferably legumes crops and shade trees together not only generate more income for smallholder farmers compared to growing either crop alone, it can also help coffee production to cope with the effects of climate change.

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Managing Tephrosia mulch and fertilizer to enhance coffee productivity on smallholder farms in the Eastern African highlands

Bucagu, C., Vanlauwe, B., & Giller, K. (2013). Managing Tephrosia mulch and fertilizer to enhance coffee productivity on smallholder farms in the Eastern African Highlands. European Journal of Agronomy 48:19-29.