Many people, including myself, would not be able to start the day without a cup of coffee. Well, there may be some bad news for us. Unfortunately, world’s supply of coffee may not be able to satisfy its demand in the future. The reasons behind it: industry structure and climate change. Using the Colombian Coffee sector – one of the worldwide most recognized coffee industries – as an example, I will illustrate the industry composition, describe the impact of climate change on the sector, and explore potential solutions to the problem.
As I said that industry structure is a part of the problem, let’s start with some industry basics. Simplifying its chain , there are six important actors in Colombia’s coffee sector:
- Juan, the coffee grower*. One of the 500.000 small producers, owns less than 6 acres . Juan’s main challenges are coping with plagues, unpredictable weather, lack of infrastructure and very low individual negotiation power.
- Distributors: Consolidates production of every Juan, test quality and send for processing. There are also input distributors selling seeds and other inputs to Juan.
- Processors (thresh, grind, toast): Only Juan’s good quality coffee is processed
- Government: Ensures proper conditions for Juan to go to the market (e.g., infrastructure) and regulates quality and safety of Juan’s product.
- Research organizations: Invest in creating new kinds of seeds and processes to improve Juan’s productivity. Colombia has strong research centers in coffee and agriculture (CIAT and Cenicafé).
- Coffee growers’ association: Defends Juan’s interests, supports his commercial efforts and shares best practices . The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) is one of the most important organizations in Colombia.
One of the main challenges of the industry is to implement at scale. Recently, the industry had to deal with a decrease in production due to the excess in precipitation, producing 32% less coffee in 2009 than in 2008, a downturn that continued until 2013 . The FNC knew the root cause of the problem: ~80% of the cultivated land had not fungus resistant trees to respond to extreme rainy seasons (called “La Niña” – “The Girl”). Easy: change the trees, change the seeds, right? Well, it took ~5 years to do it, and the reason was that every Juan had no scale nor financial resources to invest in technology, nor training on the new seeds. Significant government and industry aid was required. The challenge is coordination between every Juan in Colombia, “you have to make them work like an orchestra”, said Luis Samper, former CMO of FNC .
Climate change imposes a big risk for Juan in this context. By 2050, Colombia’s temperature will increase 2.5 °C and weather variability will increase substantially (between 3-5% in 64% of the coffee cultivated lands) , having more extreme episodes of “La Niña”. This poses a challenging scenario for Juan, as he will need to deal with:
- The beetle: With increasing temperature levels, there is a risk of having a devastating plague of a Beetle called Coffee Berry Borer in Colombia. 
- The girl: Have more and more extreme La Niña seasons. Excess of humidity and less sunshine will contribute to more fungus crisis in the future. 
- Changes in land: Deal with variations in the lands that are cultivable due to increasing in temperature and lack of access to water. It is estimated that an increase in 1°C will require to move the plantations by 167 meters to maintain levels of productivity and quality. 
A lot of thought has been put into how to adapt to climate change in agriculture, both in Colombia and internationally. These are four of the most accepted adaptation measures suggested:
- Change part of the process using “Climate-Smart Agriculture”: Many suggestions in this front, one of the most common being implementing a Coffee – Banana Intercropping to make both crops more resilient. 
- Invest in plague resistant varieties of coffee: Just as Colombia did it in 2009-2013, continue developing plague resistant varieties that could deal with fungus and beetles. The challenge will be to adapt very quickly to new mutating plagues. 
- Invest in heat resistant varieties of coffee: Let’s face it, an orchestra of Juans will not be able to move plantations every time temperature increases. The only remaining option is to find coffee varieties that are heat resistant. 
- Have an insurance policy at scale for Juan: Create a financial infrastructure to support Juan survive to extreme weather seasons. 
The problem is that climate change issues, combined with an increase in demand (population expected to reach 9.7 bn by 2050)  and incentives to use agriculture for biofuel-production, may require Juan to apply these solutions, and more, simultaneously. Will the orchestra be able to adapt together? Sounds like a challenging symphony to play.
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 Garcia Caceres, et al. “Caracterización de las cadenas de valor y abastecimiento del sector agroindustrial del café (2006). Cuad. Adm. Bogotá, Colombia.
 Leonardo Pinzon, “Global Agricultural Information Network: Colombia”. (June, 2010). USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/Coffee%20Annual_Bogota_Colombia_6-10-2010.pdf. Accessed November 2016
 Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) Web Page. About us. https://www.federaciondecafeteros.org/particulares/es/quienes_somos. Accessed November 2016
 BMI Research. A Fitch Group Company. “Colombia Agribusiness Report Q1 2016” (November,2015).
 TedX Talks. “La Orquesta Cafetera: Luis Fernando Samper at TEDx Guatavita”. (February, 2013). http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/La-Orquesta-Cafetera-Luis-Fer-3. Accessed November 2016
 Charlotte Lau et al. “Agricultura Colombiana: Adaptación al Cambio Climático”. (February, 2013). CIAT: International Center for Tropical Agriculture.
 Jaramillo J, Chabi-Olaye A, Kamonjo C, Jaramillo A, Vega FE, et al. (2009) Thermal Tolerance of the Coffee Berry Borer Hypothenemus hampei: Predictions of Climate Change Impact on a Tropical Insect Pest. PLoS ONE 4(8): e6487. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006487
 Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC). “Sostenibilidad en Accion 2013”.
 Jaramillo A (2005) “Andean climate and coffee in Colombia”. Colombian National Federation of Coffee Growers. Centro Nacional de Investigaciones de Cafe´ – Cenicafe´. Colombia: Chinchina´, 192p. (in Spanish).]
 Pieten van asten et al. “Coffee-Banana Intercropping: Implementation guidance for policymakers and investors”. Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture – FAO. https://cgspace.cgiar.org/bitstream/handle/10568/69017/CCAFSpbCoffee-Banana.pdf Accessed, November, 2016
 United Nations. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. “World population projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050”. http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/2015-report.html Accessed November 2016
*Calling the small grower Juan in honor of “Juan Valdez” the symbol of the FNC and the coffee growers and one of Colombia’s most recognized brands.
**Sad Cup of Coffee picture taken from blog post posted on September 22, 2015 by lizzyyarwood. https://orfailingthatfood.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/the-coffee-shop-crisis/, Accessed November 2016