How is climate change impacting Colombian coffee production?

Ask any Colombian farmer who has grown Colombian coffee for decades, and they’ll tell you that the climate is changing. Long established weather patterns of wet and dry periods helped to shape coffee’s harvest cycle and allow for Colombia's unique fly crop (this smaller harvest occurs in May and June). 

The usual seasons now blur together in a less defined progression, and as a result, you can typically find coffee trees at all stages of the harvest cycle on a single farm. In the past, this was unheard of, yet now it is common. This presents a new set of challenges for farmers, who plan their work around the present needs of the plant.

All producers now face these challenges, and many already struggle with this new, nonlinear harvest cycle. Green Coffee Company is fortunate to work with a dedicated, year-round team organized by experienced coffee professionals. With our collective knowledge, climate insights via XFarm, and careful land management, our well equipped team is poised to navigate increasing climatic challenges and continue leading Colombian estates in specialty grade coffee production.

Producers depend on the skies to guide coffee through its nine-month maturation cycle, but over the past two decades, climates in coffee growing regions are less predictable and presurring producers to adapt in order to maintain the coffee quality that made Colombia internationally loved. It's hard to say exactly how the weather is changing- we’ve noted longer dry spells with intense heat, extended rainy months with little sunshine, overcast weeks with little rain, and everything in between. 

What is clear is that we can no longer expect the climate to behave predictably. As a result, our teams must adapt to help the trees remain healthy and productive. Many tasks, such as fertilizing, are weather sensitive, so GCC’s team needs to be ready to execute when an opportunity presents itself. 

If we fertilize and it rains the next day, all of that material will be flushed out from the base of the trees and down into local waterways. Not only is this harmful for the environment, but our trees are also robbed of essential nutrients for their growth and resiliency. Fertilization improves yields and provides trees with the nutrition required to battle diseases and harsh climates. We have literally millions of trees to take care of, so planning around a dry spell is crucial for maximum effectiveness.

During harvests, we hope for sunny skies and heat to encourage the ripening of cherries to their darkest, juiciest hue. If the climate refuses to cooperate, cherry collection moves slower and there is a greater risk of damage from rains, which can knock cherries off of branches and make harvesting more challenging. Waiting as long as possible improves ripeness, so it is the production manager’s responsibility to carefully plan harvest schedules that accommodate the trees, our workforce, and the local climate.

Shifting weather patterns will continue to test farmers across the planet, especially in coffee growing regions. Those who can adapt quickly will capitalize on a changing industry that is full of opportunity.