The International Coffee Organization heightened warnings
over the costs of the Central America's coffee rust epidemic, flagging raised numbers
on crop losses, and forecasting a rush of laid-off plantation workers seeking jobs
in the US.
The ICO revealed that Promecafe, an organisation created in
1979 to tackle disease threats to coffee output, had lifted to 2.7m bags its
estimate for the losses in Central America in 2012-13 to the outbreak of roya
fungus, the cause of coffee rust, which kills or severely weakens trees.
The higher estimate, from a figure last week reported at
2.3m bags, reflected an increased forecast for the damage in Honduras, raised
to 1.3m bags, with rust seen wreaking more harm to infected plantations than
the 843,000 bags initially thought.
And losses will be even worse in 2013-14, when the disease
will have had a full season of impact, with the ICO saying that losses could
reach "as far as up to 50%" in Central America, excluding Mexico.
This region produced 15.8m bags of coffee last season, before
rust struck, and the loss of potentially nearly 8m bags will be felt particularly
in niche markets.
"It will have significant consequences for consumers of specialty
coffee, given the importance of Central America as a source of quality washed arabica
[beans]," the organisation, an intergovernmental group, said.
Besides the loss to the coffee market, the ICO also
cautioned over the social impact of the outbreak, affecting countries employing
some 2.2m people.
The organisation, saying that the disease had left most of the
region's coffee growers facing a "critical situation", warned of a "significant
"Most coffee in Central America is grown by smallholder
farmers, who will find it difficult to absorb the expected losses," the ICO
Some 374,000 jobs will be lost this season due to the epidemic,
"as the labour used to harvest the crop will not be needed".
The knock-on impact of such mass unemployment will be felt
in the US.
"Increased migratory pressure towards North America is to be
expected," the ICO said.