SCAA’s Third Annual Symposium
The Third Annual SCAA Symposium is being held here in beautiful downtown Houston, Texas. The weather is wonderfully hot and humid, a great relief from Olympia’s grey, wet and cold “spring” weather. The Symposium is envisioned as a forum where “leaders from specialty coffee could gather and address the challenges facing us “. There is no shortage of challenges.
First thing this morning I ran into Price Peterson of the famous Esmeralda coffee farm in Panama. He told me at current market prices farmers can make a good living and keep farms in the family. These prices will also encourage new coffee farms. Something badly needed to meet growing demand. He asked me if customers will continue to buy coffee at these prices. In the long run I think people will adapt as we did with $3.00 gas. Remember when that was a big deal? The problem is not the price so much as the speed of the increase.
Before the program began I met and networked with many industry friends. This is one of the values of conventions. You pick up bits and pieces of information (and a little gossip) that prove useful or at least interesting.
The morning topics were about current and future climate change impact on coffee production. As more than one attendee told me; a bit of a downer as way to start the day. Dr. Peter Baker, Senior Scientist at CABI noted temperatures are raising, precipitation is increasing and is unpredictable and unseasonal. This is not good for flowering or ripening of cherries. Expect more floods and storms. Dr. Juliana Jaramillo, Scientist at the University of Hanover spoke about climate change and bugs, specifically the borer beetle and that due to their short life cycle, can adapt quickly. For example, in Kenya the average temperature is up 4° c and borer population has increased 34%.
There is good news. Dr. Schilling of the Norman Borlaug Institute projected that due to climate change, in 2050 there will be 1,800 potential growing regions as opposed to the current 900.
The afternoon presentations were about market volatility. It will continue to be volatile and a new higher “average” price will exist. He did not venture to name that price. Also discussed were how to define and measure coffee quality scientifically in order to improve production and adjust to climate change.
The day was long, but I think the price of admission was worthwhile. Tomorrow the Symposium starts and hour later at a more civilized time of 8am.