In Central America, the coffee leaf rust crisis of 2012 affected nearly 600,000 thousand acres of farmland. Nearly 300,000 coffee farmers needed to replant coffee because of it. But many of them are at risk of using poor quality seedlings, susceptible varieties, or seeds that are poorly adapted to their location—meaning they will continue to be vulnerable to future disease outbreaks.
Meanwhile, most African coffee producing countries produce below 500 kg of green coffee per hectare compared to other countries in the range of 1000 kg to 2500kgs per hectare. This has profound impacts for farmer livelihoods when farmers are paid per pound of cherry. There is widespread need for replanting with young trees, trees resistant to major diseases and pests (including coffee berry disease, coffee leaf rust, antestia bug and stem borer), and with improved varieties. World Coffee Research believes that over 50% of coffee trees in Africa are more than 50 years old. Nearly all of those are old genetic stock and not well suited for the challenges of the 21st century, climate change in particular.
Because the life of a coffee tree is 20-30 years, the decision producers make about which variety to plant will have consequences until the next generation. If a farmer makes a poor decision on variety, the cumulative loss can be huge. Most coffee farmers—who earn their livelihoods based on the decisions they make about what kind of coffee to plant—don’t typically have access to transparent information about available varieties and how they differ. The lack of a comprehensive, up-to-date coffee catalog puts farmers at risk and perpetuates chronically low yields around the globe.
After visits to 16 countries and interviews of nearly 180
people from over 100 private and public bodies involved in national
or regional coffee sectors in Central America, the Carribean, and
Africa, World Coffee Research has created the Arabica Coffee Varieties catalog. The purpose of the catalog is to lower the risk associated with coffee
farming by providing direct information to farmers and other farm
renovation or planting decision-makers to enable them to make an
informed choice about what variety is best for their circumstances.
The catalog includes information on yield, disease resistance, performance at altitude, and cup quality, as well as on whether varieties are available through the World Coffee Research Verified program.
Information is power. The Variety Intelligence project brings urgently needed information to coffee farmers to help them decide which coffee is best for their situation. The Arabica Coffee Varieties catalog will be distributed to thousands of coffee farmers through national coffee institutions, exporters, cooperatives and nurseries that supply coffee plants and seeds. We expect that on farms that use the catalog to make their replanting decisions, producers can expect increase both the quality and volume of coffee by 10-15%.
Choosing the right type of coffee lowers the risk of disease and pest losses, has consequences for quality in the cup, and will be critical for coffee producers facing rapidly changing climates. Choosing the correct variety—one that meets the farmer’s goals and needs—can significantly reduce losses due to diseases/pests, increase production volume, and/or increase quality. Since coffee producers who make good planting decisions will be at much less risk of threats from disease, the risk to coffee importers and roasters will also be less.
Choosing the right variety also has consequences for quality in the cup. Farmers will be more likely to plant varieties that are well adapted to their environments given good information about this essential factor.