|All farmers have to deal with the potentially devastating effects of plant diseases and pestilence.
Coffee farmers are no different.
Central America has long been under the threat of what is called coffee rust, which is a fungus known by the scientific name Hemiliea vastatrix.
Coffee rust was first recorded in the 1800s in Kenya and has been an ongoing issue in Central America since the crop was introduced to the region, however this year it has broken out with a vengeance.
The fungus attacks the surface of the coffee plant’s leaves. Left unchecked the fungus begins to cover the surface of the leaves causing them to dry out, thus eventually killing the tree when it is no longer able to create food through photosynthesis.
It is more aggressive at lower altitudes but this year’s outbreak has been seen at high elevations as well.
It has been reported that nearly 70 percent of the crop has been affected in Guatemala. Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina has declared a state of emergency for the country. But he is not alone. Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua are also being hard hit this year.
I had the privilege to speak to a grower in Nicaragua who said his small farm has been hit, and he is replacing trees left and right. This is particularly troubling for a grower as new plants do not produce usable coffee for three to seven years.
So the question for the consumer is: What is this going to do to my pocket book?
Well, oddly enough, there seems to be little concern regarding a rise in cost of green coffee beans and a lower yield.
In discussing this issue with several of my brokers, I received mixed reviews regarding how concerned they are about what is happening.
One broker expressed deep concern about the crop yield and quality this year while another simply stated the situation is being monitored, but felt there was still plenty of good coffee coming out of the region. And, as proof his offer sheet shows, there are several shipping containers of Guatemalan coffee en route to their warehouse. With various degrees of concern the futures market has not raised the price yet of green coffees coming out of Central America.
This may change, but for now it is a good sign that good coffee is still available and your $4 to $5 latte isn’t going to reach $6 in the immediate future.