If you’ve noticed the cost of a cup of coffee at your local shop has been inching up lately, it’s because a fungus has decimated Central America’s Arabica bean crop. Now the US is stepping in to try to eliminate the deadly coffee rust fungus.
Leaf rust, or la roya in Spanish, is a yellow- and orange-colored, plant-choking fungus that has devastated coffee crops from Peru to Mexico over the past three years, costing $1 billion in damages in Central America in the late harvest season of 2012 alone. The fungus is especially ruinous to the Arabica bean, which is used in higher-end coffees, as it is said to produce better-tasting coffee than the other major commercially grown coffee species. It contains less caffeine but a more robust flavor. Arabica accounts for 75 to 80 percent of the world’s coffee production, according to the Coffee Research Institute.
The effects of leaf rust have decimated local economies.