The weather system known as El Niño is right around the corner, and experts fear it may disrupt the coming production season. But depending on the species, the effect may be more or less disastrous.
As reported by Reuters, El Niño is expected to develop in the Pacific Ocean in the back half of this year, which will “disrupt rainfall and temperature patterns,” potentially affecting total coffee output in producing countries. The brunt of the weather phenomenon, according to some experts, is expected to disproportionately impact robusta; Arabica may only see a minimal impact.
This is due in part because of the where the impact will be felt the most. Per Reuters, if a strong El Niño forms this year, Brazil and Vietnam—the two largest robusta producers—may suffer the largest losses. During the last strong El Niño in 2015 and 2016, Brazil experienced a nearly 40% loss in robusta production, causing droughts in Espirito Santo. In Vietnam, the country’s National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecast predicts a 70% to 80% chance of El Niño forming at the end of the year and going into 2024. Experts expect record temperatures in that time frame.
Arabica, on the other hand, seems to have already gone through the worst of it. Per Reuters, producing countries in Central and South America have experienced three years of heavier-than-normal rains due to La Niña, a counterpart weather phenomenon. These countries are now “seen having more normal weather,” per experts.
Still, if El Niño lingers, keeping temperatures hot during the flowering stage of the 2024-25 crop, the arabica harvest in the countries could be adversely affected.