PhD in Climate, Disease, and the International Coffee Market

Climate, disease, and the international coffee market: Sustainable Futures – MPhil/PhD (Funded) Ref: 3024

About the award

This studentship is offered as part of a call between SWBio DTP (BBSRC) and SWDTP (ESRC) for a competition-funded studentship to commence in September 2018.

Location: Streatham Campus, Exeter.

Academic Supervisors:
Professor Steve McCorriston. University of Exeter
Dr Dan Bebber, University of Exeter

Project Description:
Coffee is one of the world’s most popular drinks, with an export market worth around US$ 20 billion per year. Coffee prices fluctuate dramatically, which can have severe impacts on the 25 million families in the developing world that are involved in coffee production. Price fluctuations are driven by changing supply, demand, and financial speculation. Exporting earnings from coffee is an important revenue source for many emerging and less developed countries where the volatility of coffee prices can have significant implications for these economies.pexels-photo-434213.jpeg

Weather is an important driver of supply and exports, affecting crop production both directly and indirectly by influencing pests and diseases. For example, a recent outbreak of coffee leaf rust in Central America caused enormous financial losses and unemployment. Future climate change poses a serious threat to the coffee industry, and understanding the impacts of weather on production and the global coffee market will be key to determining how producers in the developing world will be affected by climate change. This research project will employ mathematical models to understand how production systems respond to weather, both directly through the influence on coffee plants, and indirectly through the influence on pathogenic fungi.

The economic assessment of the impact of disease will be addressed at several levels from regions in exporting countries, through to export prices and to consumers in developed countries. Econometric models (both panel and time series) will be combined with specific modelling of coffee value chains to assess price formation and, by extension, the impact of coffee rust on price volatility. The innovation of this research is to link high resolution data relating to climate and disease as an explicit driver of coffee prices in the context of factors which determine prices from exporting countries, the impact of disease on world prices in the context of other factors that drive coffee prices and, finally, the impact of disease on price volatility and consumer prices in importing countries.

The analyses will be global in scope, but will focus on Brazil, the world’s largest producer, and Colombia, an important source of high-value arabica coffee. Given the context of the coffee exporting countries, the links between disease and prices will also form the basis of wider political economy issues in Colombia and Brazil including the links between coffee prices and conflict and the potential role and efficacy of certification in stabilizing prices for producers.

General Information
The SWDTP led studentship will be awarded on a +3 basis, to start in the 2018 academic year and there are no compulsory taught units involved, however they will have access to SWDTP events and some SWBio DTP training opportunities, which can be accessed in line with the PhD project.  An RTSG of £750 per year will also be awarded to the successful ESRC SWDTP candidate.  The studentship will provide funding for 3 years.

The studentship will cover a stipend at the minimum Research Council rate, currently £14,777 per annum, research costs and tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for students who meet the residency requirements outlined by the AHRC. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award but no stipend. Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.

Entry requirements:
Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK in a relevant degree programme.  For further information about eligibility criteria please see

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