Coffee fungus raising prices for high-end blends - WSPA.com

Coffee fungus raising prices for high-end blends

Posted: Updated:

The U.S. government is stepping up efforts to help Central American farmers fight a devastating coffee disease - and hold down the price of your morning cup.

At issue is a fungus called coffee rust that has caused more than $1 billion in damage across Latin American region. The fungus is especially deadly to Arabica coffee, the bean that makes up most high-end, specialty coffees.

Already, it is affecting the price of some of those coffees in the United States.

"We are concerned because we know coffee rust is already causing massive amounts of devastation," said Raj Shah, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

On Monday, he was expected to announce a $5 million partnership with Texas A&M University's World Coffee Research center to try to eliminate the fungus.

But the government isn't doing this just to protect our $4 specialty coffees, as much as Americans love them. The chief concern is about the economic security of these small farms abroad. If farmers lose their jobs, it increases hunger and poverty in the region and contributes to violence and drug trafficking.

Washington estimates that production could be down anywhere from 15 percent to 40 percent in coming years, and that those losses could mean as many as 500,000 people could lose their jobs. Though some countries have brought the fungus under control, many of the poorer coffee-producing countries in Latin America don't see the rust problem getting better anytime soon.

Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama and Costa Rica have all been hard hit.

Much of the blander, mass-produced coffee in this country comes from Asia and other regions. Most of the richer, more expensive coffees are from small, high altitude farms in Central America. Because the farms are smaller, farmers there often don't have enough money to buy the fungicides needed or lack the training to plant in ways that could avoid contamination.

The rust, called roya in Spanish, is a fungus that is highly contagious due to airborne fungal spores. It affects different varieties, but the Arabica beans are especially susceptible. Rainy weather worsens the problem.

"We don't see an end in sight anytime soon," said Leonardo Lombardini of Texas A&M's World Coffee Research.

So far, major U.S. coffee companies have been able to find enough supply to avoid price increases. But some smaller outfits already have seen higher prices, said Ric Rhinehart of the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

Rhinehart said the worst-case scenario is that consumers eventually will pay "extraordinarily high prices for those coffees, if you can find them at all."

He said some very specialized varieties from a single origin - Guatemalan antigua coffees, for example - have been much harder to source. If the problem continues, he says, some small coffee companies either will raise prices or use blends that are easier to find, decreasing the quality of the coffee.

Larger companies such as Starbucks and Keurig Green Mountain Inc. have multiple suppliers across the region and say they have so far been able to source enough coffee.

"It's a little bit too soon to tell what the impact will be on supply and long term quality over time," said Lindsey Bolger, who heads up coffee sourcing for Keurig Green Mountain.

Still, the companies are trying to ensure that their future supply isn't affected, so they are working closely with growers on better practices that will help them avoid contamination.

"Supporting the farmer's ability to access information, technology and resources allows them to adapt to these uncertainties and ensures the longevity of our industry's supply chain," said Craig Russell, Starbucks Global Coffee executive vice president. Starbucks even bought a Costa Rican farm for research purposes.

USAID intends to work with Texas A&M to step up research on rust-resistant coffee varieties and help Latin America better monitor and respond to the fungus. The U.S. already collaborates with some of the coffee companies and other international organizations to finance replanting of different varieties of trees.

The effort is part of the Obama administration's Feed the Future program, which aims to rid the world of extreme poverty through agricultural development and improved nutrition.

While the effort has helped hungry children around the globe, "we're at risk of backtracking because of coffee rust," Shah says.

  • Don't Miss ItMore>>

  • Rappin' Xmas Jammies' family back with new video 'Baby Got Class'

    Rappin' Xmas Jammies' family back with new video 'Baby Got Class'

    Friday, August 22 2014 3:56 AM EDT2014-08-22 07:56:41 GMT
    Image courtesy: www.youtube.com/TheHoldernessFamilyImage courtesy: www.youtube.com/TheHoldernessFamily
    A jammin' North Carolina family who made a Christmas video that went viral last year is at it again. The Holderness family's clever XMAS JAMMIES song featured the pajama-clad family rapping a video version of a yearly Christmas letter.
    A jammin' North Carolina family who made a Christmas video that went viral last year is at it again. The Holderness family's clever XMAS JAMMIES song featured the pajama-clad family rapping a video version of a yearly Christmas letter.
  • Los Angeles port welcomes massive rubber duck

    Los Angeles port welcomes massive rubber duck

    Thursday, August 21 2014 6:26 PM EDT2014-08-21 22:26:58 GMT
     A giant yellow vinyl duck joins sailing ships and motorboats during the Tall Ships Festival L.A. parade in the Port of Los Angeles on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. AP photo Jeff Gritchen/Orange County Register A giant yellow vinyl duck joins sailing ships and motorboats during the Tall Ships Festival L.A. parade in the Port of Los Angeles on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. AP photo Jeff Gritchen/Orange County Register
    The Port of Los Angeles is welcoming an unusual visitor - the world's biggest bath toy. A 60-foot-tall rubber duck sailed into port Wednesday to kick off the Tall Ships Festival
    The Port of Los Angeles is welcoming an unusual visitor - the world's biggest bath toy. A 60-foot-tall rubber duck sailed into port Wednesday to kick off the Tall Ships Festival
  • Peruvian nurse cares for 175 sick cats

    Peruvian nurse cares for 175 sick cats

    Thursday, August 21 2014 12:47 PM EDT2014-08-21 16:47:33 GMT
    In this Aug. 2, 2014 photo, Maria Torero, plays with a group of 175 cats with leukemia in her home in Lima, Peru. Torero says caring for cats with feline leukemia is her responsibility. Anybody else can care for healthy animals. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)In this Aug. 2, 2014 photo, Maria Torero, plays with a group of 175 cats with leukemia in her home in Lima, Peru. Torero says caring for cats with feline leukemia is her responsibility. Anybody else can care for healthy animals. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
    At her job, Maria Torero cares for sick human beings. At home, she lavishes love on slowly dying cats - 175 of them at last count.
    At her job, Maria Torero cares for sick human beings. At home, she lavishes love on slowly dying cats - 175 of them at last count.
  • Most Viewed Stories on WFLA.com

  • Sign up for WFLA News Channel 8 Email Alerts

    * denotes required fields






    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
  • Top StoriesTop StoriesMore>>

  • Tussle Over Monkey Selfie Settled By Federal Officials

    Tussle Over Monkey Selfie Settled By Federal Officials

    Friday, August 22 2014 6:42 AM EDT2014-08-22 10:42:47 GMT
    U.S. regulators rule on monkey selfie.U.S. regulators rule on monkey selfie.
    The U.S. copyright office has made a ruling about a group of pictures taken by a monkey.The agency has ruled no one has the rights to the now famous pictures.According to CNN the animal took the photos using wildlife photographer David J. Slater's camera.One of the selfies has gone viral making its was to Wikipedia's free-to-use website.Slater asked the site to take it down but Wikipedia says it's uncopyrightable because animals can't own copyrights.
    The U.S. copyright office has made a ruling about a group of pictures taken by a monkey.The agency has ruled no one has the rights to the now famous pictures.According to CNN the animal took the photos using wildlife photographer David J. Slater's camera.One of the selfies has gone viral making its was to Wikipedia's free-to-use website.Slater asked the site to take it down but Wikipedia says it's uncopyrightable because animals can't own copyrights.
  • Woman Charged With Attempted Murder After Hit and Run in Anderson Co.

    Woman Charged With Attempted Murder After Hit and Run in Anderson Co.

    Friday, August 22 2014 5:32 AM EDT2014-08-22 09:32:02 GMT
    Anderson County deputies say Veronica Tillison faces an attempted murder charge after a hit and run incident Sunday. Photo Courtesy: Anderson County Sheriff's OfficeAnderson County deputies say Veronica Tillison faces an attempted murder charge after a hit and run incident Sunday. Photo Courtesy: Anderson County Sheriff's Office
    Anderson County deputies say Veronica Tillison faces an attempted murder charge after a hit and run incident Sunday.
    Anderson County deputies say Veronica Tillison faces an attempted murder charge after a hit and run incident Sunday.

  • Spartanburg Woman Arrested For Filing False Report

    Spartanburg Woman Arrested For Filing False Report

    Thursday, August 21 2014 8:12 PM EDT2014-08-22 00:12:03 GMT
    Spartanburg County deputies say Kendall Settlemyre was arrested for filing a false report about an assault and attempted robbery near an apartment complex. Photo Courtesy: Spartanburg County Detention CenterSpartanburg County deputies say Kendall Settlemyre was arrested for filing a false report about an assault and attempted robbery near an apartment complex. Photo Courtesy: Spartanburg County Detention Center

    Spartanburg County deputies say a Spartanburg woman was arrested for filing a false report. Deputies say she claimed she was the victim of an assault and attempted robbery near an apartment complex.

    Spartanburg County deputies say a Spartanburg woman was arrested for filing a false report. Deputies say she claimed she was the victim of an assault and attempted robbery near an apartment complex.

Powered by WorldNow

250 International Dr.
Spartanburg, S.C. 29303

Telephone: 864.576.7777
Fax: 864.587.5430
Email: webmaster@wspa.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.