A round-up of the many stories and news items about the devastating impact of the fungus Hemileia vastatrix (coffee rust, roya). Central and South America are experiencing the worst outbreak in decades.
- My post on this disease, for some background
- An excellent BBC World News audio report, which includes an interview with the University of Michigan’s John Vandermeer discussing the role of sun versus shade coffee in the spread of rust.
- News report breaking down the estimated 184 million-kilo loss from rust this crop year in Central America, by country. That’s roughly how much Starbucks coffee buys in a year.
- World Coffee Research post on losses in Central America and new varietal development.
- CRS Coffeelands blog did a series focusing on impacts and proposed solutions in Colombia.
- Costa Rica declares the outbreak a national emergency.
- As has Guatemala.
- Nicaragua is not far behind.
- An update from Tom Owen of Sweet Marias on a recent trip to Guatemala, with photos and more background.
- Nature, the scientific journal, provides some history and mentions some current research projects.
- An El Salvador grower perspective, including the future of their bourbon variety
This crisis has some serious consequences beyond the obvious impacts of increasing consumer prices and endangering the survival of some producers.
One is a decrease in the number of producers that will stay with organic certification. Most of the fungicides that are used to combat rust are allowed under organic certification. However, coffee plants attacked by rust need substantial boosts in nutrients (because they lose their leaves) in order to keep them alive. These levels are often just too hard to achieve at reasonable prices with available organic fertilizers. Recall that in the last few years, many farmers have already given up on organic certification because the price premium is just not enough to justify the extra cost and labor.