“In the 18th and 19th centuries, the British controlled vast coffee plantations across southern India and Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka. But a strange fungal disease called coffee rust became widespread by the mid-19th century, crippling the industry and forcing producers to switch to tea cultivation. “Now the shift could be happening again in the “New World,” as coffee rust strikes at crops across Central and South America. A recent outbreak is causing the worst devastation since the disease was first spotted in the Western Hemisphere in 1970; Guatemala has declared a national emergency, 2013-2014 harvests in some parts of Costa Rica may be half of what they were last year and there are troubling reports of the disease in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Mexico. “But coffee culture in the Americas may not be doomed. Leading the charge is Colombia’s Cenicafé, a research organization funded by the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros de Colombia (National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia).
“Thanks to early research, Cenicafé was ready with a rust-resistant coffee plant variety a year before the pestilence first struck Colombian operations in 1983, according to Gaitan.Today, more than 55 percent of farmers grow both Colombia and castilla varieties by Cenicafé estimates. The results are striking: in 2011, more than 40 percent of all Colombian plantations were infected with coffee rust. As of 2013, Cenicafé puts that number at 5 percent. The news from “Rachel Tepper, The Huffington Post, 03/25/2013