Dark days ahead for coffee
All major commercial coffee growing countries have been badly affected by the fungal disease “coffee leaf rust”, which spread across Africa and into Asia during the early 20th century, then to South America, becoming entrenched globally by the turn of the millennium.
The Central American coffee rust outbreak that began in the 2011-2012 harvest season affected 70% of farms in the region, resulting in over 1.7m lost jobs and US$3.2 billion in damage and lost income.
Robusta varieties used for the instant blends have been key to developing resistance to coffee leaf rust in Arabica varieties through cross breeding. As climate change and disease risks escalate, wild coffee species offer a crucial resource for maintaining the world’s coffee supply. Arabica has tightly limited geographic ranges in which it grows well and Robusta, while resistant to leaf rust, is vulnerable to other diseases.