A news report states that half of Vietnam’s coffee trees will have to be replaced in the next 5 to 10 years:
According to the Vietnam Coffee – Cocoa Association, the current 500,000ha of coffee comprises three kinds.
The first is coffee planted prior to 1988, totalling 86,400ha, accounting for 17.3% of the total area. These coffee trees are very old and need to be replaced.
The second is trees grown from 1988 to 1993 on 139,600ha, making up 27.9%. Many trees are growing old and their productivity is declining.
The third kind is trees planted after 1993, with around 274,000ha or 54.8%. These trees are yielding high productivity. In the next few years, Vietnam’s coffee output will depend on this section of coffee.
The article notes that despite warnings from experts and bank loan restrictions, farmers have planted more and more coffee, destroying forest to do so. This is almost all low-quality robusta sold to multinational roasters for grocery store blends.
Vietnamese agricultural authorities have tried to increase quality and discourage poor farming practices, without much success. This article again notes the recommendation to “put an end to the habit of selling low-quality coffee in the international market” in an effort to move towards sustainability.
This can’t happen as long as the demand from multinationals — in other words, from consumers — remains high. Poor farmers will continue to clear land to plant more coffee. The resulting glut in supply 4 years down the road causes prices to plummet. Multinationals snap up the cheap beans. The cycle of poverty and deforestation continues.
Don’t contribute to this madness. Stop buying cheap, mass-produced coffee.
Update, May 2015: In Vietnam, “Deforestation, monocropping and intensive pesticide use that helped create the boom now leaves coffee farms more vulnerable to climate change,” reports an article in The Guardian outlining the disastrous effects of drought on coffee in the country.