Guatemala's coffee rust 'emergency' devastates crops

Coffee beans being collected at a farm near Guatemala City (17 Jan) Coffee is Guatemala's most valuable export

Related Stories

Guatemala has declared a state of agricultural emergency after a coffee tree fungus blighted about 70% of the national crop.

Coffee rust causes trees to lose their leaves, resulting in fewer beans, of inferior quality.

Guatemala is releasing $13.7m (£8.7m) in emergency aid to help small farmers buy pesticides to fight the fungus.

Honduras and Costa Rica have already declared national emergencies. El Salvador and Panama are also affected.

Coffee rust first became a significant problem in the 1860s in what was then called Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka). More than 90% of crops were wiped out, and coffee-growing was abandoned on the island.

Coffee is Guatemala's main export, and coffee growers warn that hundreds of thousands of jobs could be lost.

"If we don't take the needed measures, in 2013-2014 our production could drop by 40%," Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said, according to the Associated Press.

The BBC's Humphrey Hawkesley, in Guatemala, says the outbreak is blamed on climate change, with effects including a two-degree rise in temperature, higher rainfall and an increase in humidity.

John Vandermeer, an ecologist from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, told the journal Nature that his research plot in Mexico had been devastated.

The majority of the trees had lost at least four-fifths of their leaves, while a third had no leaves at all, Mr Vandermeer said.

More on This Story

Related Stories

More Latin America & Caribbean stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Stained glass of man with swordFrance 1 England 0

    The most important battle you have probably never heard of


  • Golden retriever10 things

    Dogs get jealous, and nine more nuggets from the week's news


  • Pro-Israel demonstrators shout slogans while protesting in Berlin - 25 July 2014Holocaust guilt

    Gaza conflict leaves Germans confused over who to support


  • The emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-SabahFreedoms fear

    Growing concern for rights as Kuwait revokes citizenships


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • CastleRoyal real estate

    No longer reserved for kings and queens, some find living in a castle simply divine

Programmes

  • Leader of Hamas Khaled MeshaalHARDtalk Watch

    BBC exclusive: Hamas leader on the eagerness to end bloodshed in Gaza

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.