For the past year, coffee roya has swept through Central and South America, causing incredible devastation. Roya (the Spanish term for coffee rust), refers to a fungus, Hemileia vastatrix, which attacks the leaves of Arabica coffee plants, forming spores that quickly spread. The fungi eventually kill all the leaves on the tree, preventing any production of coffee cherries.
Some countries such as Guatemala and Costa Rica have declared a state of emergency as a direct result of Roya. To provide a sense of the scope of this disaster, here are some facts to consider (via Sprudge). It’s an epidemic of staggering proportions, one that cannot be ignored:
- In Latin America, coffee rust currently affects an area “the size of Europe”.
- Extreme weather, such as higher temperatures caused by global warming, are contributing to the spead of coffee rust.
- Rust-resistant coffee sees can cost as much as 4x the amount of non-resistant varieties.
- Combatting Roya requires investment in total farm health, including soil nutrients, proper shade coverage, pruning and spraying.
The disease has impacted all stakeholders across the supply chain, and there have been several conferences and symposiums to determine practical solutions. One hopeful, positive outcome of this disaster is the amount of support and work being done to overcome Roya. Some of these include, but are not limited to, SCAA Symposium, World Coffee Research’s International Rust Summit and Sustainable Harvest’s Let’s Talk Roya conference. In times like these, there is a very strong need to build strong relationships with farmers, importers and other stakeholders to ensure the future health of the industry and the livelihood of the farmers who depend on it.
Working to improve the lives of our farming partners at origin is very important to us, and we are continually challenging ourselves in crisis situations to ask what we can do to help. Our co-founder Mickey has been an active participant in a number of conferences and summits at origin, including Let’s Talk Roya, along with making trips to origin to work directly with our partners. Mickey has also been working with our partners to ensure that they can get the necessary funds to re-plant plants that have been affected by Roya.