Low this year, high next year: the futures of Honduran coffee

Coffee rust

The coffee industry in Honduras, the third-highest producer of coffee in the Americas behind Brazil and Colombia, received both good and bad news over the weekend.

Production in the Central American country is set to dramatically drop this term as estimates have been revised downwards as coffee rust has blighted the current crop, however it is expected to bounce back next year with early forecasts predicting the second highest yield on record will be picked.

According to figures released by the US Department of Agriculture’s bureau in Tegucigalpa, the nation produced 4.6m bags of arabica beans for the 2013-14 growing season, 400,000 fewer than was originally projected. The figure also represented a 1m bag drop to the harvest of two years ago which was the most prosperous seen in Honduran history.

“Honduras was affected by the coffee rust outbreak in about 25% of the cultivated coffee acreage,” the bureau stated.

Sweeping across Central America, coffee rust has spread far and wide across a large geographical area, driven by higher temperatures in prime coffee growing locations. Honduras’ neighbours in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua have all been seriously affected by the disease which has spread as far north as the plantations in southern Mexico. The entire region has held its breath; four million people rely on coffee for a living and the disease had already claimed around a 100,000 jobs in Guatemala’s coffee sector. A similar number of people also lost employment last year in Honduras, according to the World Food Programme.

Thankfully though for the famers in the region output is predicted to recover for the 2014-15 season where it is expected to come in just under the 5m bag mark, which can be attributed to the early investment of rust-resistant coffee trees.

After a near-critical outbreak of the disease two decades ago the Honduran coffee farmers began moving towards rust resilient strains in order to future proof their crop. Coupled with a relatively recent replanting programme around three-fifths of all coffee trees in the country now being rust resistant.

photo: Neil Palmer (CIAT) Creative Commons)

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