Roya is a fungus that grows on the leaves of the coffee plant and that starves the beans. It's caused by too much rain, which is a recurring problem and always has been but coffee is big business now. In 1982, the world used 2.6 billion pounds of coffee beans but in 2011, that number was 17.6 billion pounds, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Meanwhile, a growing human population and heavy rains there have caused Colombian output to drop 36% in the last seven years.
Larger countries have embraced science and replaced legacy plants with fungus-resistant seedlings but the new plants will take about three years to replace the plants that are not producing now - devastating for a country reliant on it as a current cash crop. But weather remains hard to predict.
One way or another, it will work out. Some hysterical types are worried that because the industry has focused on one particular genetically modified strain, global warming might mean less coffee - that kind of stuff is why you shouldn't read Union of Concerned Scientists when it comes to science. Instead of leaving us with less coffee, science will come up with a better variety for whatever conditions exist. The arabica so popular now isn't from South America at all, it was an import. Its genetic ancestry is from Indonesia and Yemen. They were both just planted there because they were best suited to the climate that already existed. New climate, new coffee.
While doing some scare journalism about coffee is likely good for policy in the very short term, it is bad in the long and run and it is not what journalists should be doing if they want the public to trust journalists. Then again, science journalism mostly gave up long ago. You won't need to horde coffee regardless of what you hear and read. Image: Shutterstock.
Both Nestlé SA and Starbucks are doing research to expand plant genetics right now - that means the days of coffee are not over no matter what happens to local weather. Science can save us from running out of coffee just like it once saved us from running out of wild game and not enough berries to forage.
In the short term, it probably does mean those people addicted to coffee enemas are going to pay a lot more.
Read all about the health benefits of coffee here at Science 2.0 and about a researcher who consults all over the world in The Indiana Jones of Coffee by Miguel Bustillo and Solomon Moore at the Wall Street Journal