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Wait Five Years for a Cup of Coffee
For folks who are used to stopping by Starbucks for a cup of coffee on the way to work it may be a little difficult to imagine that they might have to wait five years for a cup of coffee! This thought is occasioned by an article we read in the online Arizona Daily Star. The article had to do with indigenous coffee growers in Mexico and the damage done to their organic coffee crops and their lives by coffee leaf rust. Mexico is the biggest exporter of USDA certified organic coffee. Many of the producers of organic coffee in Mexican state of Chiapas are indigenous families living in the cloud forest. They produce shade grown organic coffee in the Mexican highlands under the shelter of a cool forest canopy. This environment is conducive to high quality organic coffee. Unfortunately, coffee leaf rust has arrived in the highland of Chiapas. If you get your organic coffee from this region you may have to wait five years for a cup of coffee.
Coffee Leaf Rust and Organic Coffee
Leaf rust attacks coffee crops and leaf rust kills organic coffee crops. If an organic grower is unable to treat the problem with non-chemical means he risks losing his crop and his livelihood. The fungus’ proper name is Hemileia vastatrix. When it is not controlled the disease kills coffee plants and reduces coffee growers to poverty. It is known among Latin American coffee growers as roya. The issue for organic growers is that quarantine and destruction of individual plants is not always effective. Thus a grower who has put the time, effort, and money into getting organic coffee certification may lose everything unless he turns his back on organic practices and spays the heck out of his coffee plants. Then he can only sell his produce at regular coffee prices and not the higher prices that good quality organic coffee commands. If he loses his crop he needs to replant, probably after spraying the soil, and wait five years for new organically grown coffee plants to reach maturity.
Do you really want to wait five years for a cup of coffee? There are alternatives. We wrote some time back about the efforts of the Colombian coffee growers association in developing high quality strains of Arabica coffee that are resistant to la roya, the leaf rust.