Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published June 13, 2014 at 2:12 PM | Page modified June 13, 2014 at 4:45 PM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

USAID, Starbucks join in $23M fund to fight coffee rust

A coalition that includes the U.S. Agency for International Development and Starbucks launched a $23 million fund to help Latin America farmers fight coffee rust. The fund will provide farmer training and loans to combat the disease’s devastating impact.


Seattle Times business reporter

advertising

A coalition that includes the U.S. Agency for International Development and Starbucks launched a $23 million fund to help Latin America farmers fight coffee rust.

The move is part of a growing international effort to combat coffee rust’s devastating impact on Central and South America’s coffee farms, where some of the world’s best beans are grown. Concern is rising in the coffee industry about the potential impact coffee rust may have on the long-term supply of quality arabica, the mild-tasting bean from where specialty coffee is brewed.

In May, USAID and Texas A&M announced a $5 million partnership to fight the disease, which is caused by a parasitic fungus that is now thriving amidst warming climates and changing rain patterns. The fungus coats leaves with an orange powder, making them look rusty.

The new fund will apply $8 million from USAID and partners Keurig Green Mountain, Cooperative Coffees and Root Capital to train farmers in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Peru.

In addition, $15 million in investment capital from Root Capital, including $3 million provided by Starbucks, will go toward long-term financing for repairing fields ravaged by the disease. The money will also be used for short-term loans to help keep farmers in business. Root Capital is a nonprofit investment fund based in the Boston area.

Other coffee buyers and roasters are expected to join the fund, according to a USAID release.

“This dynamic partnership will leverage our joint expertise, along with that of the private sector, to help tens of thousands of rural farmers boost their incomes and rise out of poverty,” said USAID administrator Raj Shah in a statement. “Through innovative approaches to farming, we can help these men and women combat the worst outbreak of coffee rust in Latin American history – and lay the foundation for broad-based economic growth for generations to come.”

For Starbucks, the $3 million commitment is part of a broader $20 million loan program for farmers. Also, the company last year bought a farm in Costa Rica where it is testing farming methods and new coffee tree varieties that may increase resilience to rust and other diseases.

“We are heavily invested in helping farmers manage through changes in weather or conditions like coffee rust,” said Craig Russell, who heads the company’s coffee sourcing efforts.

USAID estimates that coffee production in the rust-afflicted regions could fall 15 to 40 percent in coming years. That could cost 500,000 farmers and farm workers their jobs. The disease has caused more than $1 billion in economic damage since the latest bout broke out in 2012.

The rust crisis, experts say, lays bare the underlying fragility of the coffee supply chain, which is straining under the pressure of climate change, poverty, and a vulnerability to new diseases because most coffee trees in this region are genetically homogenous and descended from a few trees brought from the Old World centuries ago.

Ángel González: 206-464-2250 or agonzalez@seattletimes.com. On Twitter: @gonzalezseattle



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

Also in Business & Technology

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Hurry! Last two weeks to save 15%.

Hurry! Last two weeks to save 15%.

Reserve your copy of "The Seattle Sketcher," the long-awaited book by staff artist Gabriel Campanario, for the special price of just $29.95.

Advertising

Advertising


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►