Sunday, May 25, 2014

Central America's coffee crop is at death's door.

The epidemic, is in it's second year now but has not hit large roasters such as Starbucks because of a global surplus of coffee production elsewhere, such as Brazil and Southeast Asia. But it beginning to be felt in the coffee-obsessed Pacific Northwest, since it the increasing demand for a wide variety of flavors in their top dollar coffee, as well as exotic beans sourced from unique regions.

The same global coffee surplus that protected large roasters made coffee so cheap that it undercut Central American farmers' ability to combat the disease.

Prices are up two times since the beginning of this year due to uncertainty about the lack of rain in Brazil, the world's largest producer of the commodity. But the hike came too late to avert roya's woeful impact on many farmers and their workers.

A Wounded crop

Hemileia vastatrix, as the coffee rust fungus is scientifically known, is not a new. It devastated Southeast Asian plantations in the 19th century. Since appearing in Central America in the 1970s, it had been kept in check with fungicides and other methods.

But the persistent that appeared in 2012 is unprecedented in the region. Experts say the culprits include disruption of weather and rain patterns, as well as chronic underinvestment in renewing coffee plantations and in creating rust-resistant hybrids. Warmer weather and new varieties of the fungus also brought the disease to highland farms, which had to learn from scratch how to control it.