Since sixth grade, Leanne Gutierrez, a sophomore majoring in public relations, has been drinking coffee to stay up to do homework. She now drinks three to four cups each day. Were coffee prices to rise, Gutierrez said she would feel the effects.
“[Price increases] would really affect me, especially since I’m a student,” Gutierrez said. “I have a limited income.”
This situation could quickly become a reality, as experts and big corporations, including Starbucks, warn that climate change and other factors pose a significant threat to the supply of coffee and chocolate, a trend already leading some companies to raise prices.
“There are changes in climate, but also in [land distribution] and drought trends,” said Roger Clemens, a former USC professor and chief scientific officer at ET Horn, a distributor of raw materials and ingredients.
In response to declining production, several supermarket coffee companies, including Maxwell House and Folgers, increased prices by more than 25 percent between 2010 and 2011.
Many students said they would not alter their coffee drinking habits as a result of raised prices.
“I personally don’t think it would affect me,” said Tiffany Chang, a senior majoring in biological sciences. “If I had to pay more, I’d still drink it because I need coffee.”
Another threat to coffee beans is a disease killing insects that pollinate the crop, Clemens said.
“We call it colony collapse,” he said. “If you don’t have the insect population, you can’t get the plants pollinated.”
Another highly demanded product, chocolate, might become much more expensive, according to a report from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. According to the report, the supply of cocoa could plummet because of rising temperatures in West Africa.
As many would with coffee, students would continue to find ways to eat chocolate in the case of a shortage or price hike.
“I wouldn’t eat less chocolate,” said Emily Frank, a sophomore majoring in business. “I love chocolate.”
With population expected to increase from 7 billion to 9 billion in the next 30 years, countries will have to consider the trade-offs between producing coffee and essential food items, Clemens said.
“You will see a tremendous change in agriculture and coffee is one of those crops that is going to change,” Clemens said. “Do you want to grow coffee, or do you want to grow lettuce or fruits, or the foods that can actually supply nutrition?”