Fri, 09 Nov 2012 07:47:20 GMT

Arabica coffee could be extinct within 70 years: study

London, Nov 8 (PTI) The world''s most popular type of coffee - accounting for 70 per cent of consumption - could become extinct within 70 years due to climate change, a new study has found.

According to a study led by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK), changes in climate, coupled with loss of forests and invasive pests could wipe out wild Arabica coffee in its native habitat.

Originating in Ethiopia, Arabica grows in mountain forests and is the world''s most popular type of coffee, accounting for 70 per cent of consumption, the ''Daily Mail'' reported.

However, with commercial plantations grown from just a handful of plants, the crops are particularly vulnerable to infection and environmental changes.

Until now, producers have been able to replenish diseased stock from healthy wild plants, but if they are lost then the world''s coffee supplies could come under threat.

Coffee is the second most traded commodity after oil with exports worth USD 16 billion annually, and prices are currently at a 30-year high due increased demand and poor harvests.

Experts warn that if wild Arabica forests cannot be saved, world prices will continue to rise.

"It is crucial that we preserve Arabica in its natural habitat. Without these wild reserves the coffee industry is vulnerable to pests or disease," Aaron Davis, head of coffee research at the Royal Botanic Gardens, said.

"Our modelling shows that changes in the climate and weather conditions will have a profoundly negative effect on wild coffee plants.

"The worst case scenario is that Arabica coffee ceases to exist in the wild in 70 years," said Davis.

"Coffee plays an important role in supporting livelihoods and generating income, and has become part of our modern society and culture. The extinction of Arabica coffee is a startling and worrying prospect," he said.

The crop is grown in tropical environments around the world, with an estimated 70 countries producing coffee worldwide and the industry employing more than 26 million people.

Coffee is a highly sensitive to environmental changes and any fluctuation in average temperature can have an impact on harvests.

The majority of wild coffee forests remain in south Sudan and Ethiopia, which is the largest producer of coffee in Africa.

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