From: Carrie Khan, NPR
Published July 28, 2014 07:32 AM

Coffee Rust in Guatemala

Outside the northern Guatemalan town of Olopa, near the Honduran border, farmer Edwin Fernando Diaz Viera stands in the middle of his tiny coffee field. He says it was his lifelong dream to own a farm here. The area is renowned for producing some of the world's richest Arabica, the smooth-tasting beans beloved by specialty coffee brewers.

"My farm was beautiful, it was big," he says.

But then, a plant fungus called coffee rust, or roya in Spanish, hit his crop.

"Coffee rust appeared and wiped out everything," he says.

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But then, a plant fungus called coffee rust, or roya in Spanish, hit his crop.

"Coffee rust appeared and wiped out everything," he says.

That was in 2012, and it was Diaz Viera's first crop. The rust took it all. The fungus roared over the hillsides, covered the valleys and clung to the slopes of Guatemala's shady volcanoes.

The fungus has spread through Central America at an alarming rate, causing crop losses of more than a billion dollars. And it is leaving hundreds of thousands unemployed in its wake.

In El Salvador, nearly three quarters of all coffee trees are infected with the fungus; in Costa Rica more than 60 percent are infected. And in Guatemala, coffee rust now covers 70 percent of the crop, resulting in the loss of at least 100,000 jobs and a 15 percent drop in coffee output over the last two years.

Coffee rust image via insidecostarica.com.

Read more at NPR.

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