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Honduras set to lose 600m dollars due to leaf rust and low prices, says local press

South American press has reported that the coffee-producing nation of Honduras is set to lose around $600 million (£395 million) because of the leaf rust ('la roya' in Spanish) epidemic, plagues of the coffee berry borer beetle and the consequent drop in prices on coffee trading markets.

The loss estimation has been based on figures for the industry from last year, after the country's government declared a state of national phytosanitary emergency due to the leaf rust outbreak – responsible for around a quarter of the 280,000 hectares farmed for coffee bean production.

Leaf rust (known scientifically as Hemileia vastatrix) is a fungus which penetrates the leaves of the coffee tree, causing abnormal ripening, a loss of quality and the crop to fall from the tree.

Meanwhile, the coffee berry borer beetle (known as 'la broca' in Spanish and Hypothenemus hampei in scientific spheres) is one of the main threats to Arabica crops, on which the pest thrives while the plant is ripening.

Victor Hugo Molin, manager of the Honduras Coffee Institute (Ihcafé), told AFP that he predicts the harvest running from October 1st 2012 to September 30th 2013 will yield around six million bags of coffee, representing a considerable loss in production.

He added it's a troublesome situation due to the fact that it affects the overall economy in terms of foreign income, is leaving 100,000 people without work and affects all of the rural families who depend on the commodity for their livelihood.

During the last harvest from October 1st 2011 to September 30th 2012, coffee – the main export from Honduras – generated over $1.4 billion for the economy, churning out 7.2 million 48kg bags, with 16 out of the 18 regions in the country implicated in the trade.

Director of the International Coffee Organization Robeiro Oliveira Silva has expressed his concern for the social impact that the outbreak will have on the people of Honduras, due to the loss of jobs and income. Nevertheless, he expressed hope and faith in the coffee-producing community of Honduras saying that he believed it was committed to making a full recovery.