At DRWakefield, we are naturally concerned about anything that may affect coffee harvests around the world, as it can have an effect not only on our roasters, but also on the livelihoods of the people who grow the beans in the first place. In recent weeks, coffee news has been littered with mentions of roya fungus, but what exactly is this and how has it been affecting bean harvests around the world? What is roya fungus? Roya fungus is also referred to as leaf rust and doesn't just affect coffee, but also crops such as corn and rice. Coffee plants affected by the fungus tend to experience leaf drop and can be killed completely if preventative measures are not taken. In addition, coffee cherries may not ripen on infected crops, instead falling from the branch and becoming waste. How is it spread? Coffee crops based in wetter, more humid and lower altitudes are at greater risk of being affected by roya fungus, but its spread can be controlled if farmers use fungicides to help to keep it at bay. Bean growers in more remote parts of the world or those working on micro lots may not have access to these preventative chemicals or know how to treat roya fungus, potentially placing their crops at more of a risk. How has it affected global harvests? Central and South America have been particularly affected by the roya fungus this season, with a 60-day emergency being declared in 11 of Peru's coffee-growing regions to help to stop its spread. During this time, fungicides will be deployed to assist in preventing a similar issue affecting next season's crop. In El Salvador, the fungus is being blamed for a 57.5 per cent drop in coffee exports in the country for the 2013-14 season, with these falling from 1.17 million bags in 2012-13 to 498,736 this year. Meanwhile, Costa Rica has managed to reduce the spread of roya fungus by 40 per cent over the past 12 months – something that the Costa Rican Coffee Institute ICAFE has partly put down to rising global coffee prices making farmers more wary of protecting their crops.
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