Nation’s coffee producers struggle with rust disease

Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore photo
An example of the rust blotches on a coffee plant

Costa Rican coffee farmers are dealing with many issues this harvest season, including the roya blight.

Roya del cafe, translated in English to “coffee rust,” is a fungus that forms yellow-orange dusty patches on the underside of the leaves. This causes the coffee plant to lose its leaves, eventually killing the whole plant, said Ronald Peters, executive director for the Instituto del Café de Costa Rica.

The disease first appeared in parts of Brazil and then moved to other parts of Central and South America. The Consejo Nacional del Café released a report on its Web site that said that Nicaragua will lose up to 300,000 quintals of coffee this year to the disease. A quintal is 46 kilos or about 101.5 pounds.

In Costa Rica, the majority of the effects have been felt in the Brunca Region in the southwest.

According to Peters, this is not the only thing agriculturist must overcome. The climate this year has been dangerous to plant production.

Basically there have been high temperatures and less rain, he said.

All this combined is creating a loss of crops. No exact figures are out, but Peters said as much as 30,000 hectares have been lost.

Currently the coffee institute and the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería are working to create a commission. This commission is to make a plan of action to combat the factors destroying coffee plantations.

Together the organizations will find the best solutions, said Peters. The commission should be formed in the beginning of next year, he said.

In addition to the weather and the disease, coffee producers also are struggling with low international prices due to higher supplies of the beans from elsewhere.

The rust fungus, Hemileia vastatrix, is spread by the wind and rain. The fungus became known in Africa in the 19th century but did not reach the Americas until about 1970.

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