Your morning cup of coffee is at risk, and the government is fighting to save it.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a $5 million partnership with Texas A&M University’s World Coffee Research to eliminate coffee rust, a fungal plant disease that’s caused over $1 billion economic damages throughout Latin America and the Caribbean since 2012. Those most affected are the small farmers who make their living in the coffee industry, and the USAID is fighting to make sure these farmers may continue to supply the world’s demand.
“Coffee rust threatens more than your morning coffee—it affects jobs, businesses, and the security of millions across the Americas,” said USAID’s Associate Administrator Mark Feierstein. “We must tackle this outbreak to ensure farmers and laborers have stable incomes, don’t start growing illicit crops, or be forced to migrate because they can no longer support their families. This partnership will tap innovative solutions to address the immediate and long-term impacts of coffee rust and help this key agriculture sector rebound.”
Coffee rust most affects Coffea arabica (Arabica coffee), which is the the bean most often used in higher-quality blends and makes up about 75 to 80 percent of the world’s coffee, according to the Coffee Research Institute. Coffee rust also poses a threat to Coffea canephora (robusta coffee), which is the second of the most widely used commercial coffee strains.
And it isn’t just affecting coffee-connoisseurs wallets. According to the USAID, the disease could affect the crops of about 500,000 farmers. Some estimates suggest that there will be a 15-40% fall in coffee production, but the USAID aid is intended to combat the declining production by funding research on rust-resistant coffee varieties, address the shortage of disease-resistant coffee seedlings, and expand the capability of the region’s coffee institutions to monitor and respond to coffee rust.
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According to the USAID, the government’s investment to fight coffee rust totals $14 million. Working with organizations such as the World Coffee Research, Feed the Future, and others, USAID seeks to fight coffee rust not only to make sure you have a cup of joe, but also to make sure those 500,000 coffee farmers aren’t left with grinds.
FEATURED PHOTO: Rob Taylor/Flickr