Guatemalan coffee growers battling deadly plant fungus, stiff competition abandon farms for US

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Coffee Rust, fungus linked to climate change threatens coffee plants in South America. Credit: Jeff Koehler, NPR

Guatemala’s coffee farmers are at the mercy of one of the world’s most volatile commodity markets. Over the past two years, the price has been pushed down by the increase in cheap, mechanized coffee production in Brazil — the Saudi Arabia of coffee — the strength of the U.S. dollar and increased production in Vietnam, Honduras and Colombia. It’s a perfect storm that has eaten away at the value of the beans even as the price of lattes and Americanos in U.S. shops has risen.

Meanwhile, production costs for Guatemala’s 120,000 small-scale coffee farmers have increased as they’ve been forced to buy chemicals to combat the growth of coffee rust, a fungus believed to be associated with climate change.

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Guatemala is now the single largest source of migrants attempting to enter the United States …. Here in western Guatemala, one of the biggest factors in that surge is the falling price of coffee, from $2.20 per pound in 2015 to a low this year of 86 cents — about a 60 percent drop. Since 2017, most farmers have been operating at a loss …. A staggering number of those farmers have decided to migrate.

Read full, original article: ‘The migration problem is a coffee problem’ (Behind Paywall)

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