Industry News: The Year of the Coffee Curse
An in-depth look at the coffee leaf rust epidemic that has rocked the industry over the last 12 months and the effects this outbreak will have on the new 2013/14 crop year.
With the new coffee year beginning this
week, we’ve been reflecting on the highs and lows our industry has faced over
the last 12 months. Undoubtedly, the most prominent issue has been the outbreak
of coffee leaf rust throughout
The epidemic has spread throughout Mexico, Central
America and Colombia; severely affecting trees and threatening to almost halve
the 2013/14 harvest in many producing countries.
On a more positive note, despite the damage to many coffee plantations in Honduras, the origin’s National Coffee Institute has forecasted a 5% increase in exports for the new October 2013 to September 2014 coffee year. This projected increase is due to a number of rejuvenated coffee farms now coming into higher volume production. The National Coffee Institute have made a point of stating that the issues of leaf rust have not disappeared for Honduras, however they will not impact upon the overall output for the coming year.
The leaf rust disease was first detected in
Many governments and origin-country
associations have pledged funds to aid farmers in fighting the infestation. The
Mexican government has this week announced a plan to invest 2.75 billion Pesos
(225 million AUD) to the cause, assisting farmers to purchase pesticides to
counter the disease and support farm rejuvenation programs. These programs involve
replacing aged trees with new disease resistant and higher yield varietals.
The issue has captured the attention of
international organisations around the world. In response to the crisis the
“First International Summit on Coffee Rust”, organized by the World Coffee
Research (WCR) program and The Regional Cooperative Program for the
Technological Development and Modernisation of the Coffee Industry (PROMECAFE),
was held in
The International Coffee Organisation (ICO)
acknowledged the crisis, drafting a Resolution and publishing a report on the outbreak earlier this year. The Resolution identified the severity of the
crisis and emphasized the importance of coffee to the region, specifically
stating that more than two million Central Americans earn their livelihood from
the crop. The report cited official statistics detailing the impact of the
outbreak, stating that on average over 50 percent of the coffee growing area in
the region has been affected by the disease. It outlined the social impacts of
the outbreak, estimating that approximately 374,000 jobs were lost in 2012/13
and predicting that the loss of income to farmers would lead to issues
regarding food security. It also made mention of the significant consequences to
the speciality coffee industry, given the importance of the region as a source
of quality washed Arabica coffees. An action plan in response to the crisis
included increased media coverage and political lobbying, technical assistance for
growers and access to pesticides, plantation renovation schemes, studies with
the World Bank into financial risk management strategies and research into the sustainability
of coffee growing in
While the above responses and resolutions seem simple enough in theory, the successful implementation of these action plans depend upon strengthening regional and national coffee associations, undertaking comprehensive research projects, complex bureaucratic coordination and millions of donor dollars. Facilitating international debate and intervention is moving in the right direction, however practical action is required if the region is to overcome the epidemic.
During our recent origin trip to
After digesting all
of this information and personally witnessing the effects of the crisis, we ask
ourselves the question – how can we help? While we are halfway across the world and, as previously
mentioned are yet to encounter any serious consequences of the crisis;
maintaining an educated approach is of utmost importance. This issue not only
affects smallholder communities in
With increasing regional (and international) attention on the issue, it is hoped that the effects of the outbreak can be contained coming into the new coffee year and the risk of any future epidemics can be mitigated. We’re crossing our fingers that our next post about leaf rust is a positive one!
Data has been drawn from ICO ‘Report on the
outbreak of coffee leaf rust in Central America and Action Plan to combat the
pest’, GAIN ‘WCR meeting on Coffee Leaf Rust in Central America’, and WCR &
PROMECAFE ‘First International Coffee Rust Summit - Summary of major findings
Images courtesy of Origin partner farms in El Salvador. All photos by Scott Bennett.
References - SCAA, I&M Smith and SWDCC Market Reports.