A pernicious disease has been sweeping through coffee fields, devastating farmers throughout Latin America. It is a fungus known as Hemileia vastratrix, or ‘coffee rust disease.’ It begins on the leaves forming yellowish, powdery circles, and then slowly spreads up the entire tree. Though the disease affects coffee farmers globally, it has been particularly catastrophic throughout Latin America, where it has caused nearly $1 billion in damages thus far.
Coffee is considered to be the single most economically advantageous agricultural export in the world, accruing more global profit than any other agricultural crop. Due to its economic significance, the ‘coffee rust disease’ has had a crippling effect on the economies of Latin America. The ‘coffee rust’ outbreak is predicted to put an estimated 500,000 people out of work in the coming years, as the coffee production dwindles by up to 40%.
In addition to fewer jobs and a damaged economy, people worldwide will be experiencing the ramifications of ‘coffee rust’ outbreak in the form of coffee prices rising due to increased scarcity in coffee beans. With coffee prices rising, many coffee shops could go under. Though coffee companies will still be able to obtain coffee beans regularly, the coffee prices are likely to rise considerably, particularly among small name coffee shops. Local coffee shops will either be forced to raise their coffee prices, or reduce the quality of their coffee beans, both of which are unfavorable options for the business and the consumer alike.
The United States Government has agreed to step up and assist the Latin American farmers in finding a cure for ‘coffee rust.’ With the help of Texas A&M University’s World Coffee Research Department, they have begun to work on finding a solution to this problem. The U.S. Government has contributed $5 million to their research, but unfortunately the researchers say it could be a long time before a cure will be found.
In the meantime, there is little that coffee farmers can do to control the spread of ‘coffee rust.’ The fungus is airborne, allowing it to spread rapidly to nearby crops. Coffee farmers will have to make do to salvage whatever they can of their crops, and coffee lovers worldwide will have to endure the rise of coffee prices in consequence.