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Economy

Climate change hits Arabica coffee yields

A small-scale farmer picks ripe coffee beans from her farm in Nyeri. PHOTO | FILE
A small-scale farmer picks ripe coffee beans from her farm in Nyeri. PHOTO | FILE 

Climate change could adversely affect the coffee sector in East Africa, a new study has found.

The research conducted by the University of Witwatersrand shows that temperature changes affected yields of Arabica coffee in Tanzania leading to about 46 per cent registered losses among small-scale farmers in the country.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and International Center for Tropical Agriculture also took part in the research which demonstrates that Arabica yield has decreased by 195 kilogrammes per hectare in the last 49 years as a result of a 1.42 degrees Celsius increase in night temperatures.

“Coffee yields have declined to their lowest point in years, with many farmers in Tanzania giving up on coffee completely,” says Alessandro Craparo, the main author of the study.

The study titled Coffea Arabica yields decline in Tanzania due to climate change: Global implications provides the first on-the-ground evidence that climate change is already having an impact on the Arabica coffee sector in the East African highlands.

In Kenya, this type of coffee in grown in the Mt Kenya and Rift Valley regions such as Kiambu, Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Kericho, Nakuru and Kisii.

The sensitive Arabica coffee berries need low temperatures to grow well and produce high quality crop , which is why they are best suited for the cool tropical highlands of East Africa.

The study verifies for the first time that increasing night temperature is the main reason for diminishing Arabica coffee yields between 1961 and 2012.

Without adaptation strategies, Tanzanian farmers will experience about 35 per cent loss in coffee yields by 2060, a decrease of up to $28 million (Sh2.6 billion) in Arabica export earnings.

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