The first international summit of global coffee traders, coffee associations, governments and leading scientists, held April 18-20, outlined a series of initiatives to combat the effects of coffee rust that has devastated harvests across Central America.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Starbucks, JM Smucker, S&D Coffee and Mars Beverages agreed to continue their support of coffee producers in the region and recognise the unique quality and value of the coffees produced there.
Attendees at the summit agreed that the immediate solution for addressing this season’s rust, which has already affected harvests, is to encourage farmers to use integrated disease management strategies that include proper use of fungicides, development of a weather-based warning system for the rust disease, and replanting of plantations.
Root Capital and other farm credit organisations are ready to make loans to farmer co-operatives and producer groups for fungicides based on forward contracts with coffee companies.
The financial community, represented at the Summit through International Finance Corporation (IFC,) Inter-American Development Bank (IDB,) and World Bank, stated their commitment to work quickly with governments and private companies to set up and disburse loans for fungicides and planting materials.
Private coffee roasting and export companies represented at the summit committed to supporting coffee farmers through further collaboration with World Coffee Research (WCR), NGOs, government agencies and producer organizations to develop strategies that address the near and long-term implications of the coffee rust outbreak on coffee farmers and their communities.
Medium-term action includes the establishment of an emergency rust response unit funded partially by the US Agency for International Development (USAID ) and the Inter-American Institute of Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) and private partnership with industry through its Guatemala-based PROMECAFE office. The rust response unit will assist governments and coffee institutions in securing loans to purchase more fungicides, train farmers in more effective fungicide application practices and retool tissue culture labs to produce coffee seedlings.
“USAID is exploring available resources that could support smallholder coffee farmers and regional and national institutions to combat the coffee rust,” said Mark Visocky, director of the Office of Economic Growth with USAID in Guatemala.
PROMECAFE and WCR will develop an emergency request for funding of research and development activities geared toward increasing the region’s ability to produce seed and seedlings for rust resistant planting material for critical plantation renovation.
“Research and development is key in making sure new planting materials are produced at the volumes and quality necessary to renovate severely affected plantations with new, high-value coffee varieties that are resistant to coffee leaf rust,” said Tim Schilling, executive director of WCR. “For the long term, WCR is working with the Central American Tropical Agriculture University (CATIE) to use new breeding techniques that will produce higher quality, more resistant varieties with exceptional agronomic characteristics.”
Monitoring pathogen populations in the region will be equally important to ensure that host resistance remains stable over the long term.