If you look forward to your cup of joe in the morning, the latest news from Central American coffee growers could ruin your day. Coffee plantations are currently suffering the worst epidemic of leaf rust that they have ever seen. Things have gotten so bad that Honduras has declared a state of emergency, and at least 2.7 million bags of coffee were lost to the disease last year alone. Fortunately, there is something you can do to help.
A glance at the growing number of coffee shops and rows of coffee at the grocery store might suggest that the java supply is doing just fine – but Central America grows 12 percent of the world’s coffee, and the fungal pathogen is threatening at least half of those crops. When a plant is hit by the disease, the plant sheds its leaves, inhibiting photosynthesis and killing the plant.
Right now there are about 351,000 farmer in Central America, which support about 2 million people. The devastation of last year’s crop amounted to $500 million US dollars lost in trade. If the coffee trade collapses in the area due to the disease, it will lead to a lot of jobs lost and lives ruined.
Growing methods do impact how susceptible plants are to the disease, though. Organic growers have found that they experience less rust. In fact, some organic growers manage to farm unscathed despite being surrounded by infected farms. Unfortunately, there is no real push among government agencies to support organic farmers. Nonetheless, as a consumer, you can help support farmers who are using organic methods by purchasing fair trade, organic coffee.