A tale of two coffee trees in Mexico: one grows, another wilts

Coffee farmer Jorge Hernandez holds up a leaf from an arabica tree infected by roya at a farm near Chichapa, in Mexico's eastern Veracruz state. (David Alire Garcia / Reuters)
Coffee farmer Jorge Hernandez holds up a leaf from an arabica tree infected by roya at a farm near Chichapa, in Mexico’s eastern Veracruz state. (David Alire Garcia / Reuters)

By David Alire Garcia / Reuters

Mexican coffee farmers suffered one of their bleakest seasons ever last year as a virulent fungus devastated the crop, stripping down trees to disease-ridden skeletons, starved of sunlight.

Now, another tree is helping to lift the gloom.

Once wedded to arabica coffee trees, many hard-scrabble farmers in Mexico’s tropical east coast are switching to robusta despite its lower value, in part because it can better withstand the fungus known as roya, or leaf rust.

A severe roya outbreak has shattered arabica output in Mexico and Central America over the past two years, destroying thousands of jobs and encouraging a shift toward hardier trees.

“Right now, because of roya, the whole world wants robusta,” said Juan Lopez, a coffee farmer with a 1-hectare plot near Cuichapa in the eastern coffee-producing state of Veracruz, who is among those making the transition to robusta.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/04/us-mexico-coffee-analysis-idUSKBN0L71Q020150204

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