Vietnam's coffee trees stunted by drought, heat and pests

By AFP   June 5, 2024 | 10:35 pm PT
Vietnam's coffee trees stunted by drought, heat and pests
Farmers harvesting coffee in Vietnam's Central Highlands. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Drought, heat waves and a pest that thrives in hot and dry conditions have stunted the growth of Vietnam's coffee trees, a leading expert said Wednesday, shrinking supply of the beans used in instant coffee.

The Southeast Asian country is the world's leading supplier of robusta, a bean used in Nescafe and other instant brands.

The 2024-25 crop of coffee beans, for which harvesting starts in October, is likely to be 15-20% lower than normal, Nguyen Nam Hai, the chairman of Vietnam's Coffee and Cocoa Association (Vicofa), told AFP.

"The heat and the drought has greatly impacted coffee trees' development and growth," he said, with farmers hard-pressed to find alternative water sources.

In Gia Lai, a mountainous province in the Central Highlands, the heart of Vietnam's coffee-growing region, high temperatures and low rainfall have also allowed the pest cochinilla to thrive.

"The burning heat and the cochinilla damages coffee branches, shrinking the coffee cherries and badly impacting their quality," Hai said.

Vietnam produces roughly 1.8 million tonnes of coffee per year on average. The majority is exported, with half going to Europe.

U.S. market research firm StoneX has predicted that this year's coffee output in Vietnam might only reach 1.4 million tonnes, the lowest in four years.

Central and southern Vietnam experienced weeks of record temperatures and no rain in March and April.

There has been some rainfall in recent weeks but Hai said it was "not enough."

Climate change presents a serious concern for the multi-billion-dollar coffee industry, with scientists predicting lower yields and fewer areas suitable for growing.

Robusta was thought to better cope with higher temperatures compared to its competitor, arabica.

But the world may face robusta shortages of up to 35 million bags by 2040, according to World Coffee Research, due to rising consumption trends and the impact of the climate crisis.

Researchers say the land suitable for growing arabica will halve by 2050.

Global coffee prices have climbed rapidly this year, which means Vietnamese farmers can earn a little more per kilo in the short term.

"However, the amount overall is not much as the drought has brought down the yield," Hai said.

go to top