In 2008, coffee rust almost killed Colombia’s $2.6 billion coffee industry.
A decade later, it’s about to harvest its biggest ever crop.
Colombia managed to turn things around with significant government intervention, research into the disease and by planting varieties resistant to the fungus.
The battle, however, is not over.
Coffee rust — or la roya as it’s called in Latin America — is a persistent problem, exacerbated by climate change. It’s making coffee more and more expensive, while at the same time making it harder and harder for coffee producers to earn a living.
When the orange-hued spores appear on a tree, that tree sheds its leaves and stops producing coffee cherries. Just like that, the disease can devastate a country’s coffee industry.
It happened across Central America in 2012, and traditional coffee producing countries like Guatemala still haven’t recovered.
Honduras, now the world’s third largest coffee producer, did bounce back. Experts say its because the Honduran government followed the Colombia model.