La Roya Blight Affects Peruvian Coffee Production in 2013

Coffee Rust effects coffee Production in Peru

As devoted and, at times, feverous lovers of coffee here at Aracari, when we heard about trouble brewing in the Peruvian coffee community, we were simply obliged to investigate. Thousands of cafetaleros (coffee farmers) across Latin America this year have suffered major losses due to a fungus known as “coffee rust” for the dusty, orange spots that appear on affected plants. Peru, the world’s eighth largest coffee producer, has been particularly hard hit by this plague, la roya.

Coffee harvests under threat from coffee rust

Reports estimate that more than a thousand farmers have lost their entire harvest, and the National Chamber of Coffee predicted in June that Peru would lose 2 million quintals of coffee this year, which is about 46,000 bags and almost a third of expected production because of la roya blight. Peru exports to 46 countries with 60% of its output going directly to Europe. This will affect the Peruvian agricultural export economy considering that in 2012 coffee exports generated a quarter of the total revenue—about $1 billion. Already Peru has seen a 30% decrease in coffee production because of the fungus and the fact that coffee prices have dropped internationally.

You might be sipping coffee sourced from Central or South America as you read this and wonder how or if la roya will affect you as a purveyor of the world’s finest beans. The truth is that it probably will not impact you directly, but in Peru, it has devastated coffee farmers across the country. Facing huge debts, the farmers requested financial and technical support from the government and were disappointed by the initial reaction to their petitions for aid. This tension peaked in recent weeks when protests by coffee farmers broke out across Peru, including a recent protest of cafetaleros who marched from the central highlands to Lima to ask, in person, for government intervention.  The cafetaleros believe that la roya spread as a result of climate change and improper application of fertilizers and are counting on government assistance to prevent further agricultural and economic damage.

National Peruvian Coffee Day

Entering any café here in Lima, the smell of freshly pressed espresso would not reveal any hints that there is a shortage of coffee in the country, that a blight is destroying precious plants and beans. Just last week Peru celebrated National Peruvian Coffee Day, and a few of us from Aracari stumbled upon a coffee fair in Barranco’s Main Square where farms from Peru’s Villa Rica offered samples of their products for people to sample and then purchase. It was in the days leading up to the national coffee celebration that the government finally agreed to provide $35 million to coffee farmers.

Indeed, the blight has caused some cafetaleros to focus on selling coffee in the local Peruvian market while scaling back the amount of coffee that they export. So for now, it seems, the supply of caffeine to Aracari workers will thankfully not be diminished. Please let us know if you would like to find the best spots to enjoy organic Peruvian coffee while travelling with us and support the local economy for coffee.

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