COLLEGE STATION – A Texas A&M AgriLife project, the largest of its type awarded to date, aims to help reconstruct a Central American coffee industry still recovering from a coffee rust disease epidemic that has devastated the region.
The coffee rust epidemic in Central America
According to estimates, the coffee rust epidemic in the harvest season of late 2012 alone cost the coffee industry in Central America more than $1 billion.
The U.S. Agency for International Development has announced an almost $5 million partnership with Texas A&M University entities and others on a Global Development Alliance to focus on research efforts in coffee-producing regions of Central America, the Caribbean and Peru.
The alliance is led by World Coffee Research and the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture in College Station, both programs of Texas A&M AgriLife Research.
Project partners include coffee research and development institutions from Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, Dominican Republic and Jamaica, the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center, the Feed the Future initiative of USAID, the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development and the Federal University of Vicosa.
The project seeks primarily to rebuild livelihoods and food security for smallholder farmers whose income was ravaged by the rust epidemic. As such, research will focus on establishing an improved Central American coffee sector through plantation renovation with high quality, disease resistant coffee varieties and a constant pipeline of newer, higher performing varieties.
The rust epidemic cost the Central American coffee industry $1 billion in the harvest season of late 2012 alone, according to Dr. Tim Schilling, executive director of World Coffee Research.
“We are confident in this alliance’s ability to turn things around for the Central American coffee producer who has been hit hard with a double-whammy of leaf rust and low prices,” Schilling said. “Central America must shoot for the higher end of the market and this alliance will allow that to happen by providing high-quality, rust-resistant varieties tailored for specific eco-geographic zones.”