Costa Rica Arabica Coffee Disease
Created: March 2014
Today, Arabica coffee is threatened by disease and may face extinction if not countered. The big problem for Costa Rica is- ‘Costa Rica only produces Arabica coffee!’ The full impact of the ‘coffee rust’ disease has not yet reached the global markets. The major industry players appreciate the serious implications of the disease are taking corrective actions. In this blog we will look at the proposed action to save the coffee industry.
Hope at Last for the Coffee Industry
Coffee has always ranked high on Costa Rica’s list of foreign exchange earning exports. In a previous blog, the discussion focused on the history of the industry that led to its prominence. Now the industry faces extinction from the ‘fungus Hemileia Vastatrix’, or ‘coffee rust disease’ which has infected many of the Arabica coffee plantations in the Caribbean, South and Central America. The leaves develop yellow spots and become rust-like in color, the fluids in the plant are sapped, the leaves, and the berries begin to fall off. 90% of Costa Rica’s coffee is Arabica and the disease has steadily worked its way through the plantations. The decline in production is increasing annually and future crops are endangered.
The Costa Rican’s have begun an initial counter measure. They are now introducing a new strain of coffee called the ‘Obata’ from Brazil. The Obata appears resistant to the coffee rust disease but is not quite as rich as the Arabica. Another encouraging boost in the struggle for recovery is coming from overseas interests that wish to modernize the industry, increase yields, and resist known diseases.
Declining Coffee Yields
Recent industry data confirms a 30 % decline in the industry production over a one-year period. The data is compiled by using the number of bags of coffee reaped for export and not in dollars earned from sales. Fluctuations in market prices could conceal large differences in actual export production.
Below are the comparative export figures for bags sold between the periods October to January, for the last two years.
Period 60 Kg. Bags of Coffee
October 2012 to January 2013 180,850
October 2013 to January 2014 138,050
That represents a decline of 30% over the previous year.
Coffee farmers are mostly poor, small ‘plot’ operators. They are heavily indebted by the expenses of farming and their own subsistence. Depending solely on their crops to repay their loans and support their families, any loss of productive trees is devastating to them. We have already discussed the three areas that earn the ‘big’ money in coffee production. They are:
- Banking- providing credit to ‘rural small farms’ and peasant farmers.
- Processing- the sorting, grading, and preparation of beans for export.
- Marketing – direct sales to and overseas trading of beans to buyers.
Poor farmers work the plantations in the face of great temptation from the rivaling drug industry. In the drug industry, the wages are much greater but the risk of a jail sentence is a deterrent. Over 50,000 farmers plant and reap coffee annually.
The finest coffee brands are available at the Blue River Resort and Hot Springs. Visitors are encouraged to sample Costa Rica’s best exports, whilst relaxing at the Resort. With breakfast, or after a long leisurely soak in the Hot Springs, a steaming cup of coffee is the right accompaniment for relaxing and enjoying these lush tropical surroundings. Each brand has its own distinctive taste and aroma, try them all before selecting those to take home. Once back home, brew a cup, and let the aroma bring back the wonderful memories of your Costa Rican vacation. Located in Guanacaste, Liberia, at the base of the Rincon de la Vieja volcano, the Blue River Resort offers visitors many eco-tourist adventures.