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Lattes on the line as climate change threat looms

Australia's love affair with coffee, has the potential to hit flat white and latte sippers in the hip pocket as climate change threatens global supplies of the humble bean.

Extreme weather has steadily increased across the top 12 coffee producing regions globally over the past 40 years, putting vulnerable crops at risk.

New research from the CSIRO and University of Southern Queensland suggests concurrent climate hazards could impact international supplies.

Study lead Doug Richardson said extreme weather conditions could result in a mass shortage.

"We're pretty confident climate change is playing a role in this because the main problem used to be conditions were too cool and now they're often too warm and that aligns with what we know about the impacts of climate change," he said.

"Coffee crops can fail if the annual average temperature and rainfall is not within an optimal range."

About three in four Australians enjoy at least one cup of coffee per day, according to data from research company McCrindle.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows the nation is one of the world's biggest coffee importers, spending nearly $700 million on coffee products in 2020.

Aussies have also been credited with inventing the famous flat white in the mid 1980s.

The multi-billion dollar coffee industry is mostly supplied by Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Sydney roaster and The New Paradigm Coffee owner Ben Johnson imports 25-30 tonnes of coffee per year and is worried about the impact of climate change on prices.

"I don't think it will happen quickly but I think it will happen," he said of the potential coffee shortage.

"Coffee plants are just stupidly delicate ... I'm worried about climate change in that it creates more volatile weather, which then causes panic and causes prices to rise."

CSIRO scientist James Risbey said climate patterns were essential predictors of hazards in coffee growing regions.

"The El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) - a recurring pattern affecting the tropics and extratropics - can help predict hazards in some regions like tropical South America, Indonesia and Vietnam," he said.

"The good news is ENSO appears to have less of an impact on Southern Brazil, the world's biggest producer of Arabica coffee.

"Southern Brazil could therefore help to dampen coffee production shocks felt elsewhere during significant ENSO events like prolonged cool weather (La Nina) or warm weather (El Nino)."