The Coffee Rust Crisis April 07 2014

Have you heard of the leaf rust crisis affecting coffee farmers in Central and South America? Leaf Rust, or Roya as it’s called in Spanish, is naturally occurring fungus in coffee fields.  During the 2012-2013 growing season this fungus began to reproduce in catastrophic proportions due to abnormally high temperatures and humidity.  These factors created the perfect recipe for the fungus to spread at an alarming rate, devastating local coffee farmers. Roya attacks the leaves of the coffee tree hindering its primary source of photosynthesis. This not only affects the ripening of the current season’s berries, but also lowers carbohydrate accumulation in the roots and shoots. This causes the next harvest's flowers to drop prematurely and can ultimately kill the entire tree.

Honduras has declared a state of emergency due to the fungus and has lost an estimated 15%-25% in production losses. Guatemala and Costa Rica have been the hardest hit losing an estimated 30%-40%. Co-op Coffees producing partners have said there has been little real support for small-scale, organic farmer groups. Unfortunately, industry and government relief proposals are relying on small intensive, chemical solutions.

So what is Co-op Coffees and Desert Sun Coffee doing to help these farmers? Together we have initiated a special Roya relief fund.  This relief fund is adding a per/pound charge collected off the sale of the coffees of our effected partners.  These funds are being allocated to partners (in proportion to the volumes we purchase) to be applied to specific projects focusing on re-planting, organic fertilization or intensive organic training programs, food security garden projects or other initiatives to generate additional family income.

In conjunction, we are exploring alternative micro-initiatives, such as linking our purchase contracts to long term credits, supporting greater farmer to farmer exchange of best organic practices and exploring external fund-raising via non-profit organizations. Together we are working with farmers to overcome this epidemic. We’ll keep you posted throughout this year.