Coffee growers in Central America threatened by fungus outbreak

January 19, 2013CENTRAL AMERICA - Entire families depend on work from the coffee-growing industry in Central America, which employs more than 1.5 million people to produce one of the world’s most renowned Arabica beans. But in September, two months before the annual harvest, the fungus known as roya began to spread due to a lack of preventive measures and the effects of climate change, including high temperatures and drought, according to experts, government officials and industry sources. “The situation is very serious,” Jose Buitrago, president of Nicaragua’s Coffee Exporters Association, told AFP. “It will get worse if measures are not taken.” The fungus, hemileia vastatrix, discolors and dries up coffee leaves, an effect that also gives roya the name of “leaf rust.” The parasite has latched on to 35 percent of the 958,000 hectares of sown crops, which will mean a loss of two million coffee bean bags of 46 kilograms (100 pounds) each, industry officials told AFP. This would represent a loss of $300 million at the current price of $150 per bag, the sources said. Central American nations exported 17.5 million bags of coffee during the 2011-2012 cycle, bringing $3.6 billion to the region, and growers had hoped to do even better this season. The harvest begins in November and ends in February. Salvadoran Coffee Research Foundation recommended fertilizing the soil and cutting off all leaves covered in roya, which cannot survive in dead leaves. The Regional International Organization for Plant Protection and Animal Health (OIRSA) will back the measures, but the region, which lacks resources, also plans to seek foreign loans. Guatemala needs $843 million in investments to renew its coffee plantations while Nicaragua is looking at $200 million, according to preliminary industry figures. While roya is plaguing the whole region, Honduras and Nicaragua stand to lose the most as coffee is their main export. It represents $1.4 billion, or 22 percent, of exports for Honduras and $519 million, or 18 percent, for Nicaragua. In Honduras, considered Central America’s coffee king, the fungus has devastated 10 percent of 280,000 hectares of crops, according to the head of the Honduran Coffee Institute, Victor Molina. The fungus has hit 30 percent of Nicaragua’s 128,000 hectares of coffee, prompting the government and the industry to seek funds to help 35,000 growers. Guatemala’s National Coffee Association warned that roya has reached 67 percent of its 274,000 hectares, threatening to leave 200,000 people without work. El Salvador could be forced to destroy 30 percent of its 161,000 hectares of coffee, while Costa Rica declared a sanitary emergency after the parasite invaded 30 percent of its 93,000 hectares. “Producers let their guard down. Costa Rica could lose more than 250,000 (coffee bags),” said Costa Rican Deputy Agriculture Minister Xinia Chaves. “The entire coffee region is affected, some more than others,” Marcelino Samayo, director general of El Salvador’s coffee exporters’ association. Central America’s coffee plantations are held by more than 300,000 producers, and the majority is small- and medium-sized growers with few means to control the outbreak. Governments and producers will try to contain the invasion by pruning infected leaves, putting up effective shading systems and planting fungus-resistant seeds to replace dead coffee plants, said Nicaraguan Agriculture Minister Ariel Bucardo. –Physics
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10 Responses to Coffee growers in Central America threatened by fungus outbreak

  1. Marybell says:

    Get Monsanto on it immediately. Probably respopnsible for it anyway. Just another way for prices to go up, RIGHT?

  2. prairiemae says:

    “…and plant fungus resistant seeds to replace dead plants” – hmm, looks like Monsanto and gang will profit nicely from this fungus problem. Sad thing is, the gmo seeds will only make matters worse for them down the line as American farmers are now starting to figure out.

  3. nanoduck says:

    NOOOOOO! Anything but coffee! (and chocolate, too!) Definitely the end of the world coming….

  4. Alan says:

    Government should not be beholden to moneyed corporate monstrosities! It’s shameful that the government would sell out the people it supposedly exists to serve. Just look at any of the US government statistics on the birth rate, miscarriage rate, and infant mortality rate and see for yourself! Whether it’s Fukushima radiation or Monsanto’s uber-food, the dangers are real and they ought to be obvious.

  5. yardley7 says:

    Good information alfonza Zetina, if you dig deep enough you will find that USDA is loaded with ex-Monsanto executives and visa versa…you have likely watched “The World according to Monsanto” by Marie-Monique Robin…great documentary exposing Monsanto….now it appears we can’t get GMO food labelled here in the US. Just to be safe, eat only organic food.

  6. Irene C says:

    Now this is something that will cause a major panic. Imaging a lot of stressed-out people waking up in the morning and – no coffee. :(

  7. niebo says:

    It is a strange fungus that thrives in high heat and drought conditions. This MUST be Monsanto’s satanic machinations!

  8. tonic says:

    Directly related to a quite sun.
    And might also be related to how every veg plot near me this year suffered potato blight.

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