Coffee is the most important agricultural product in international trade in terms of monetary value. It is a valuable commodity in many tropical countries and provides a livelihood for millions of people.
In countries heavily dependent on coffee bean production for income and jobs, a meager harvest spells disaster for hundreds of thousands of people. And that is exactly what’s happening in some countries in Central America: an outbreak of coffee rust, a fungal disease known as “la roya” in Spanish, has devastated about 958,000 hectares, (2,367,269 acres) or more than one third of coffee trees throughout the region.
The effects of coffee rust can cause a devastating loss of income for small coffee farmers, laborers, and other workers who make their living in coffee growing, export, and other related industries. Combined with the effects of a severe, prolonged drought in the region and a rise in staple food prices, coffee rust has caused 1.5 million or more people in Central America to slip into food insecurity.
The World Food Program, an agency of the United Nations, is providing food for some of the hardest-hit populations in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, is providing 10 million dollars to this effort for cash transfers and food vouchers for 220,000 of the most food insecure people in these countries.
This money is in addition to USAID’s recent 20 million dollar investment to combat coffee rust in the Hemisphere. USAID is partnering with Texas A&M University to develop rust-resistant coffee varieties and expand the capability of the region’s coffee institutions to monitor and respond to coffee rust.
USAID, in partnership with Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., Cooperative Coffees, Starbucks, and Root Capital, also launched the Coffee Farmer Resilience Fund this summer to leverage $23 million in financial assistance for more than 40,000 coffee farmers combating the devastating coffee rust outbreak.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is contributing more than $35 million to help combat coffee rust and revitalize the coffee sectors in Honduras and El Salvador.
“We must ensure,” said USAID Associate, Administrator, Mark Feierstein “that Central Americans affected by the devastating drought and coffee rust crisis have enough to eat, the ability to support their families, and job opportunities.”