Year 4, Month 7, Day 11: Roya Garden Blues

More on coffee, from the Burlington Free Press:

The president of Apecafe in El Salvador, a cooperative formed in 1997 to represent more than 400 coffee farmers, Puente has had a front-row seat to “la roya,” the fungus that is devastating coffee plantations across Central America.

“We think outbreaks of violence and famine can occur in some cooperatives as a result of this situation,” Puente said in a recent interview from San Salvador, where Apecafe is headquartered. “The other issue is migration. People are going to want to move to the United States and other countries where they can find food. We place a great deal of importance on treating roya to end all the negative effects of the disease. They are catastrophic. People suffer a great deal.”

Puente says la roya, also known as coffee rust, has affected more than 74 percent of the coffee plantations in El Salvador. He says the country will lose 1 million of the 1.7 million quintals of coffee beans it normally produces. One quintal is equal to about 100 pounds.

“The reality is we have been hit by something very powerful,” Puente said.

The price of coffee has yet to go up in the United States, but Lindsey Bolger, senior director of coffee for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in Waterbury, said that could change next year.

This is just the beginning. June 24:

Like a lot of Americans, I’ve always thought of coffee as a staple food. And like a lot of Americans, I’m dreading a future where it’s turned into a costly luxury. Coffee rust is just one of a host of complex consequences of the intensifying greenhouse effect that are going to make all our mornings that much harder.

In coming years, we won’t be drinking the best-tasting coffee, but that which is most resistant to extreme weather, unpredictable rains, droughts, devastated biodiversity, and fungal pests like La Roya. And it won’t just be coffee, but virtually everything else we put on the table.

How much more news of this sort can we absorb before our politicians stop being terrified of offending their corporate paymasters and start taking immediate steps to protect the world’s agriculture from the consequences of climate change? Each passing day makes action less effective and more expensive.

Warren Senders

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