A fungus ruthlessly attacking coffee crops across Latin America – it's enough to make any coffee lover queasy. But no one is as concerned as coffee farmers and coffee shops.Coffee rust, or Roya, is the culprit behind the fungus. The rust has long been an issue for coffee farmers, but one that could be controlled due to predictable climate patterns. However, the outbreak in the last two years is the worst in Latin America's history, causing more than $1 billion in economic damage across Latin America and the Caribbean.
And it's getting worse. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) tells us that global production will fall by as much as 15 to 40 percent in the coming years.
With the steep decline in production, every coffee shop in the United States that imports beans is affected in some way.
"In 2012, a rust epidemic hit Central America, due in part to prolonged rains during the 'dry' months," says Alfredo Pacas, who produces coffee in El Salvador for Brooklyn-based Gorilla Coffee and other coffee roasters around the globe. "We are still perceiving the effects of this epidemic. In some farms, production has fallen between 40 and 50 percent. Other farms were left unrecoverable, forcing us to replant the entire farm."