Leaf Rust Resistant Honduran Coffee

Research into resistant coffee strains and significant replanting has led to increased Honduran coffee output and exports. Agrimoney.com writes about how the third ranking exporter of Arabica coffee is well on its way to overcoming coffee leaf rust and bringing exports back up to traditional levels.

Honduran coffee production, and exports, will hit a record high in 2015-16 as Central America’s top bean grower reaps the benefit of efforts to counter rust, which badly hurt the region’s output two seasons ago.

Honduras – Latin America’s third-ranked coffee exporter after Brazil and Colombia, and renowned as an origin of higher quality supplies – will produce 6.11m bags of beans in 2015-16, on an October-to-September basis, the US Department of Agriculture bureau  in Tegucigalpa said.

That would take to 37% the rebound in output from a low last season, as coffee rust spread through the country, as it did through other Central American producing nations.

And it would lift output – all of arabica beans – above the record 5.60m bags achieved in 2011-12, before the outbreak of rust, caused by the roya fungus, which cuts yields dramatically and can result in tree death.

Honduras, like Colombia has been carrying out research to develop coffee leaf rust resistant strains. This effort has been successful and many coffee plantations that were replanted a few years ago are back in production.

Corporate Efforts to Fight Leaf Rust

The mega coffee shop people, Starbucks, are pouring money into supporting high end and organic coffee farmers in fighting leaf rust. The Seattle Times reports that Starbucks is giving $30 million more for this effort.

Starbucks renewed a commitment to fund loans for coffee farmers in a bid to strengthen the often wobbly supply chain for the bean that underpins its sprawling empire.

The coffee giant said it will allocate $30 million to a global fund for farmers to be distributed over the next five years, a follow-up to the program that has applied $20 million since 2010 toward loans made through microfinance nonprofits such as Root Capital. The loans are designed to help farmers with little access to traditional financing from banks.

Starbucks’ promise comes as coffee farmers in Central America and the Caribbean struggle to recover from a devastating epidemic of coffee rust and deal with the impact of climate change on their crop.

The company says some 62 cooperatives in eight countries – representing more than 40,000 farmers – were aided by the initial $20 million.

This is an example of enlightened self-interest. Starbucks prospers because it provides a great cup of coffee and that cup of coffee threatened when small high end and organic coffee farmers go under.

Not All Nations Are Successful

While leaf rust resistant Honduran coffee is leading that nation back to its accustomed spot on the coffee export list nations like Nicaragua are struggling with the plant disease. CCTV America writes about how coffee rust threatens crops in Nicaragua.

High-quality coffee produced in Nicaragua is one of the country’s most lucrative exports. But a disease called “coffee leaf rust” is devastating the crop fields of Nicaragua and the farmers who harvest them. The same plant that won one of the most important coffee prizes in Nicaragua a few years ago has now been deeply affected by coffee rust.

The most successful nations, like Honduras will follow the example of Colombian efforts to fight leaf rust and see their production and exports recover.


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