Around the Joffrey’s Coffee and Tea Co. office, there is no doubt we like to stay up to date on all that is happening in the countries of origin from which we source our coffees. Sadly, the news from most of Central America has been nothing short of devastating as roya or rust continues to plague farms. We sat down with our Head Roastmaster, Chris de Mezzo, recently to discuss roya and the toll it takes on coffee plants and the farmers.
What exactly is roya or rust?
Chris: Roya is a fungus caused by extremely dry conditions. It is very hard to contain and spreads easily throughout a farm as the spores of this fungus become airborne and pass from one tree to another. PIC # 1.
How can farmers treat their coffee plants once roya has broken out?
Chris: There are only two ways to deal with this problem and both are bad news for farmers. Farmers can do a very severe pruning which effectively puts them out of production for at least 2 years. Or, if they have the money and can afford the chemicals, they can apply a very costly fungicide to the trees. However, if farmers are organic coffee producers, they are not allowed to use fungicides. Using fungicides may limit loss of production to one year rather than 2 years lost from severe pruning. Pics #2 & #3
What happens if coffee trees aren’t treated?
Chris: If not treated the trees will defoliate and any fruit it produces will not fully develop and will be unusable. Pic # 4
What does this mean for Joffrey’s Coffee and Tea Co. and our customers?
Chris: The rust problem has been going on for a few years now; it is getting better in some areas, and worse in others. What it means to us roasters is that we have to work harder to source the best beans we can find with each new crop harvested. At the same time we try to do everything we can to support the farms we have dealt with in past years and help them get back on their feet. If they have had to replace their trees they have effectively cut off their income for at least 3 years, we take up collections and try to help them as best we can. Very sad to see a whole farm wiped out by something like this. But this is all part of coffee farming, you always have perils mother nature deals you: drought, frost, earth quakes, volcanos, floods, insects, just to name a few. Sure glad we are on the roasting side of the business rather than the producing side, but we will help the producers any way we can.
If you would like to learn more about coffee rust and its effects, reach out to us and comment below.