Financial Disaster Forecasted for Farmers

An extensive new study from Fairtrade International suggests that intensifying impacts of climate change will present a financial threat to millions of Fairtrade farmers around the world. The report paints a bleak picture of commodities such as bananas, coffee and cocoa and explicitly identifies how climate change will impact specific crops and regions in different ways.

Released on 25 October 2021, ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference beginning 31 October in Scotland, the report warns of the dire financial futures of millions of small farmers without intensified support from the private sector.

"The report's results are extremely alarming and a clarion call for immediate and comprehensive climate action," warned Dr Nyagoy Nyong'o, global CEO at Fairtrade.

"The threat to the future of many supply chains is very real, and our planet's farmers and agricultural workers are on the frontline of this global climate crisis. We must do everything to ensure they are not left behind and that they are indeed a part of the solution."

Conducted by researchers from VU Amsterdam and the Bern University of Applied Sciences with funding from the European Union, the 150-page report identified coffee as one of the commodity crops that will be most affected by climate change.

The report focuses on how climate change will affect the financial livelihoods of coffee producers and farmers part of the Fairtrade scheme.

According to the study’s findings, dramatic weather patterns spurred by climate change wil likely deliver severe blows to agriculture production in key regions around the world.

Banana producers in the Caribbean and Central America are expected to face less rainfall and more extreme temperatures, while those in Southeast Asia and Oceania will see an increased risk of tropical cyclones.

Coffee producers in Brazil, Central America and South India could encounter temperature spikes combined with drought, directly impacting Fairtrade coffee production.

Meanwhile, in the Dominican Republic and Peru, as well as in parts of West Africa, cocoa farmers are likely to encounter more hot and dry weather periods. Their counterparts in eastern Ghana and northern  Côte d’Ivoire may face heavier rains.

Sugarcane producers in Southeast Asia may face increase drought and heat stress. Similar conditions could soon afflict tea production in Asia and Africa as well, with producers across Asia, in Malawi and Tanzania predicted to be most severely impacted.

The impact of climate on agricultural production and the future of food is well-known, with commodities such as coffee having long been in the climate spotlight. Studies suggest that by 2050 up to half of the world's land currently used to farm coffee may not be viable. However, the link between climate change and the livelihoods of farmers has rarely been so glaringly apparent.

"The way climate change affects the planet is extraordinarily complex," Fairtrade senior advisor for climate and environment Juan Pablo Solís said.

"This report offers an amazing amount of climate data and projections that illustrate the reality of those landscapes where farmers and workers are producing under Fairtrade terms and the mounting challenges that they face if the international community continues to fail them."

Solís added that the international community must support farms and engage in climate action.

“This must be done through supporting climate adaptation and resilience measures to ensure that both farmers’ livelihoods are protected and the environment is preserved.”

Despite dramatic increases in various sustainability claims over the past decade, research has shown that some of the world's largest 'sustainable' buyers have not been able to guarantee a 'living income' for coffee producers. Such economic injustice is only expected to intensify as many farmers face increased stress due to climate change.

While the study mentioned a broad range of potential climate change adaptation strategies such as agroforestry, Solís identified that passing the costs of such measures onto farmers would only worsen their financial situations.

Investments in climate change resiliency at the farm level is "yet another injustice they should not have to bear, particularly as agricultural communities of Fairtrade producers have contributed the least to climate change in the first place," said Solís.

The report insists on immediate action from the private sector to address climate change resiliency in coffee and other popularly consumed agricultural products.