Climate change, or at the very least, what’s being described as “unusual weather conditions” are being blamed for a serious threat to supplies of two of our favourite commodities – olive oil and coffee.
Scientists believe they may have a solution for our favourite coffee, but as things stand, the future for olives looks to be in the lap of the weather gods.
Twelve months of terrible olive harvests in several European countries have led the industry to dub 2014 as ‘black year’, according to a report in Caterer. And in its 2015 Market Newsletter, The International Olive Council said: “Owing to the hefty drop in Spain and Italy’s output, imports from outside the EU will probably be considerably higher than last year, particularly imports from Tunisia where the harvest is much higher than last year. And with a shortage, guess what, comes a price hike. In Italy, producer prices have risen by 72%.
So what’s the end game? Well, according to Walter Zabre of producer Filippo Berio, the next step, following another bad harvest, would be rationing. Fortunately, the 2015/16 harvest is expected to be better.
Now to coffee?and a report by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in 2012 predicted that environmental changes would result in a decrease of at least 85% in locations where Arabica coffee grows in Ethiopa, where it originated, by 2080. Arabica, the world’s most popular coffee is very sensitive to changes in temperature and rainfall.
The team from Kew has been hard at work on the ground, since publishing the report, assessing what measures can be taken to avert this Doomsday scenario. The BBC reports that the researchers maintain that the threat is not unique to Ethiopa, and that in fact, commercial varieties of Arabica are even more susceptible to a change in environmental conditions. Commercial coffee is effectively weaker because it is in-bred.
But, fear not, as the World Coffee Research Institute has embarked on an ambitious project with the potential for hugely significant and positive results. It is attempting to recreate the hybrid that is Arabica – but even better! It’s breeding rather genetic engineering, they insist.
This work won’t happen overnight, but thankfully the environmental changes won’t occur that quickly either. We’ll just have to hope that the new tough Arabica tastes just as good as its slightly less resilient cousin.
Maybe the teams from Kew can turn their attention to olives next.