One of the biggest challenges facing coffee farmers throughout Central and South America is La Roya (Leaf Rust disease). This naturally occurring fungus attacks the leaves. This can cause the next harvest flowers to drop prematurely, can kill the branch or the entire tree... thereby affecting not only the current crop but overall coffee yields for the next 2 to 5 years to come. Scientists have claimed La Roya to be one of the top five most devastational agricultural plagues in history and point to climate change as the root cause.
Almost every one of our Latin American producer partner groups have been affected considerably. Some long-standing cooperatives have been faced with discontinuing the function of the organization due to lack of coffee to harvest and the need to find other sources for income. According to the International Coffee Organization, Central American countries have estimated production losses due to coffee leaf rust from the past harvest: Guatemala (33.33%), Costa Rica (30-40%) and 15% - 25% in Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. But despite the dire situation (Honduras declared a “State of Emergency” due to the fungus) our producer partners say little real support has come for small-scale, organic farmer groups. Instead, industry and government relief proposals are relying on an intensive, chemical package solution.
As a result, and following consultation with producer partners and members, Coop Coffees has initiated a special Roya Relief fund. These funds will be allocated to partners (in proportion to the volumes we purchase) to be applied to specific projects focused on re-planting, organic fertilization or intensive organic training programs, food security garden projects or other initiatives to generate additional family income. Simultaneously, we are exploring alternative “macro-initiatives” such as linking our purchase contracts to long-term credits, supporting greater farmer to farmer exchange of best organic practices and exploring external fund-raising via allied not-for profits organizations.