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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

3/4/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Fungal disease attacks leaves of coffee plants with rust-colored spore dust

The Central American economy is struggling with the outbreak of coffee rust, also known as roya. The disease is crippling coffee crops in the area, leading to a downturn in jobs and income for countries reliant on this agricultural crop.

Roya attacks the leaves of coffee plants with rust-colored spore dust.

Roya attacks the leaves of coffee plants with rust-colored spore dust.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/4/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in Americas

Keywords: Roya, coffee disease, Central America, Caribbean


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - It's rapidly become the worst epidemic in nearly 40 years of coffee leaf rust. The outbreak is being directly linked to global climate change. As a result, coffee production has been cut by hundreds of millions of dollars, leaving countless coffee pickers out of work.

Roya attacks the leaves of coffee plants with rust-colored spore dust. Central American and Caribbean coffee plantations have been drastically affected by the outbreak since the outbreak started in late 2012.

"The loss in coffee production in Central America for this crop year, 2014, is estimated at $250 million," Mauricio Galindo, head of operations at the International Coffee Organization says.

In Panama, 86 percent of coffee plantations are affected by roya, followed by 74 percent in El Salvador and then Costa Rica and Guatemala.

It's a crisis: Two million people, working on small rural farms in both Central America and the Caribbean depend on coffee growing as their main source of income.

Coffee producers have been forced to hire fewer seasonal coffee pickers and paying lower wages, threatening hundreds of thousands of livelihoods and export revenues in some of Latin America's poorest countries.

Growers with reduced crops to sell are missing out on the bounty of skyrocketing coffee prices, which have surged more than 60 percent so far this year.

Higher coffee prices are directly due to the drop in Central American coffee supplies. There are also new fears over drought damage in the world's top coffee grower Brazil have been the main driver of the rally.

Roya first appeared in the region in the 1970s. Climate change is a factor behind the virulent spread of the moisture-loving fungus, scientists say.

"Scientists close to the ICO link the fungus to climate change, which is causing higher temperatures and increased precipitation. Coffee leaf rust thrives in these conditions," Galindo said.

Roya is now reportedly infecting plantations at a higher altitude - above 1,000 to 1,200 meters - whereas in the past it did not tend to flourish above 800 meters.

"Due to changing climatic patterns, the fungus is expanding to higher altitudes where coffee is grown," Galindo said.

"Some farmers may not understand climate change as such, but they see change, they see it rains more and that things on their plantation are not what they used to be and are out of order. They live off their coffee plantations and they know better than anyone the effects of climate change."

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