Focus On Rapid Innovation, R&D

Rising temperatures, water scarcity and availability of land are some of the factors to be worried about, experts at World Coffee Conference

BENGALURU, Sep 29 (The CONNECT) – Climate change has been brewing trouble for the global coffee industry.

Rising temperatures, water scarcity and availability of land suitable for coffee plantations are some of the factors which can potentially change the dynamics of the global coffee production and supply chain – unless countries work towards mitigating its negative impact through rapid innovation, increased funding for research and scientific collaboration, said experts at the three-day World Coffee Conference (WCC) 2023 which ended yesterday.

Rising temperatures are making land unsuitable for coffee plantation. “There is a 66% chance that the global average temperatures will hit 1.5 degree Celsius above the present industrial temperatures in the next 5 years alone”, remarked Raina Lang, Senior Director, Sustainable Coffee, Conservation International (USA) during the session ‘Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change.’

Salvador Urrutia Loucel , Latin American Director, World Coffee Research pointed out that the biggest hurdle is that countries are not investing enough in research and development.

“Breeding climate resilient variants of the coffee bean is one key solution that coffee growing nations could benefit from if they collaborate on scientific research and knowledge exchange”, he said.

Dr. Aaron Davis, Kew Gardens (UK), agreed. The industry needs to adapt, change or relocate said Davis. “The sector needs to look at alternative coffee species beyond Arabica and Robusta – the two dominant varieties today – which can be resilient to rapid climate change. Some of these candidates include Sierra Leone coffee, Liberica, Excelsa, Zanzibar/Ibo, Racemosa among others, some of which are drought resistant.

Throwing light on the India perspective, Prof. Sunil Nautiyal, Director, GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment (NIHE), shared that farmers in India experience crop loss due to factors such as wild animals, drought, forest fires and more however they are not adequately compensated for their losses. This case is especially true for farmers with small land holdings.

In the session on ‘Start–ups & Innovations – Product Development & Packaging’

Marcus Velezmoro, Business Development Manager-Global Coffee & Aroma Protection, Syntegon (Germany) spoke about how companies have now started focusing on creating environment – friendly packaging as a result of a growing consciousness among consumers.

One of the many discussions of the day was on the ‘Growing importance of Robusta & Coffee blends’ where speakers shared insights on demand for Robusta across regions. Speaking about the growing demand for the Robusta blend in India, Kailash Natani, MD, Sucafina said, “Demand for coffee has overtaken production in India. Robusta brings in exotic flavours which makes for an excellent cup of coffee.  GenZ and millennials in particular are driving the coffee culture in India.

The afternoon session on ‘Challenges in Coffee Trade’ saw head of coffee trade bodies of various countries as well as Retail Brand Leaders share insights on barriers to global coffee trade, policy and potential solutions.

Dr. Enselme Gouthon, President, African and Madagascar Robusta Coffee Agency (ACRAM) (Togo) shared that Coffee is the world’s second most traded commodity after oil. He adds, “Its production supports 25 million families and yet producers find it hard to make a return on their margins due to unremunerative prices.”

The session on ‘Coffee Consumption’ had Dr. Bruno Mahler Mioto, Consultant, Heart Institute (Brazil) who enlightened the audience on the connect between coffee and health.

“Coffee contains antioxidants and lowers cardiovascular incidents. It can also reduce the risk of depression“ he explained.

Sharing a case study on emerging trends and coffee consumption patterns, Kelly Goodejohn, Vice President, Global Coffee Sustainability & Education, Starbucks said that the demand for coffee has never been better. “More than 50% of our global customer base are GenZ and millennials. 70% of the beverage that we sell is cold coffee. Cold, customized and plant-based beverages are emerging. This is what we call experiential convenience”, she explained.

The World Coffee Conference exhibition is a true representation of India’s journey toward becoming a prominent coffee nation. This is evident when you explore the entire coffee value chain, from cultivation to cup. This journey involves a complex interplay of processes, technology, and talent. The exhibition arena at WCC has 200+ stalls where coffee brands, start-ups, coffee equipment, coffee tourism and allied industry showcased their products, transacted business and networked with industry persons.

India takes immense pride in its assortment of six Geographical Indication (GI)tagged coffees, all prominently showcased at the WCC Exhibition 2023. With a growing interest in coffee consumption, India is witnessing the emergence of innovative small-scale entrepreneurs who are establishing distinctive cafes known for their experimentation with a wide range of coffee blends. These cafes, numbering in the thousands across India, include international industry giants and have reached even the most remote corners of the country, making coffee accessible everywhere. This expansion from cafes to Indian households is gradually introducing coffee, complete with its unique characteristics, into people’s homes. In essence, the WCC 2023 exhibition provides a captivating glimpse into the journey of coffee, from the farm to the cup.

WCC 2023 presents an extraordinary opportunity for India to explore the global coffee market, particularly in light of the sustainable practices employed in Indian coffee cultivation—an attribute that is rare on the global stage. India’s coffee story spans diverse regions, encompassing traditional ones such as Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, as well as emerging regions like Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, the North-East States, and the Himalayas. These regions are poised to have a significant impact on both the Indian and global coffee scenes.

Day 03 of WCC 2023 hosted a plethora of workshops on topics like cafes and micro roasters, Exploring Climate-Resilient Coffee Species, basics of Barista Championship preparation, Blending and Profiling of Robusta, The Café Business and more. Masterclasses were held on Espresso, Robusta Beans and coffee tasting sessions through the day.

The 5th World Coffee Conference (WCC) 2023 is organized by the International Coffee Organization (ICO) in collaboration with the Coffee Board of India; Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India; Government of Karnataka, and the Coffee Industry.