Disease Outbreak Threatens the Future of Good Coffee
TAP - Coffee contains anti-oxidants that help people to shake off disease. The attack on food is a key plank of the world depopulation programme.
A disease called coffee rust has reached epidemic proportions in Central America, threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of farmers and the morning pick-me-up of millions of coffee drinkers.
Caused by a leaf-blighting fungus, possibly exacerbated by growing practices and climate change, the disease leaves coffee plants spindly and barren, their precious fruits unripened.
“Where people have been using heirloom varietals for a century, you just have trees without leaves,” said David Griswold, president of Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers. “We’re already into the flowering cycle now, then it takes nine months to incubate the beans. You can see from the flowering what the losses will be. It’s just twigs. It’s as though you’re walking through a forest of twigs.”
The effects haven’t been felt yet among coffee drinkers in developed countries, but history gives a sense of the problem’s potential magnitude. England, that quintessentially tea-drinking nation, only became so in the 19th century, after rust outbreaks destroyed coffee plantations in Sri Lanka and shifted production to Indonesia. That’s why coffee is sometimes called java.
Coffee rust first occurred in Central America in the mid-1970s, but outbreaks didn’t reach industry-threatening levels. Now they have. After the latest flowering season, rust afflicts more than 50 percent of growing areas in a belt stretching from Guatemala through Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
Regional production fell by 15 percent last year, putting nearly 400,000 people out of work, and that’s just a taste of what’s to come. The next harvest season begins in October, and according to the International Coffee Organization, crop losses could hit 50 percent.
Coffee is grown elsewhere in the world, of course, but growers in Central America — and in Jamaica, Colombia, Peru and Mexico, where the disease has also spread — specialize in Arabica varieties, which are used in high-quality coffees. Robusta varieties — which are mixed with Arabicas in mass-market, low-cost coffees — resist the disease, but don’t taste as good.
“It’s the better-quality coffees that are going to get more expensive and harder to come by,” said Peter Giuliano of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. “People will be reminded that coffee is special and delicate.”