A fungus has wreaked havoc in Latin America, ruining a large part of the local coffee harvest. One sixth of all coffee originates in this region, which means that a failed harvest may lead to an uncontrollable rise of the price of coffee.
State of emergency in Central America
The plague, discovered several decades ago, has never spread this fast, devastating the Caribbean and Central America last year. Guatemala, following Costa Rica and Honduras in declaring a state of emergency, considers forty percent of the harvest to be lost. Peru estimates 25 percent to be lost, with Mexico at ten percent.
Arabica coffee, the most desired coffee in the world, is particularly susceptible to the fungus known as coffee rust, which manifests itself as yellow-orange spots on the plant’s leaves, causing the beans to drop prematurely, shrivelling up the stem. This results in a plant worthless for production purposes. The plague now endangers the income of some 300,000 coffee bean farmers.
Its impact on the coffee price currently remains limited as for the third consecutive year the sector expects a record harvest, mainly because Brazil is increasing its production. Possible price hikes are expected later, especially if the fungus reaches Brazilian coffee bean farmers.