Revitalizing Central American, Caribbean and Peruvian Coffee Sectors After the Rust Crisis of 2012

Contact name: Jennifer Rumford
Phone: 979.458.5536
Project URL:
Organization Name: World Coffee Research

Project: Revitalizing Central American, Caribbean and Peruvian Coffee Sectors After the Rust Crisis of 2012
Location: Central and South America
Projected Impact: The entire coffee industry, from farmer to barista

Project Description
leaf_s copyWorld Coffee Research (WCR) arose out of concern for the long-term sustainability of coffee as a commodity. It was formed by the coffee industry to establish a strategic and scientific approach to growing, protecting, and enhancing the supply of quality coffee, while also improving the livelihoods of the families who produce it.

In Central America, PROMECAFE statistics show that 21 percent of coffee producing land went out of production after the 2012 rust (Hemileia vastatrix) crisis, and in 2014, 50 percent of the remaining plantations are still reporting coffee rust incidences.

The nearly monoculture of Arabica coffee means susceptibility to problems is a given. The coffee industry needs to expand coffee diversity to produce a crop that can better withstand drought, disease, pests, and predicted changes in the climate in key coffee producing regions. The historical choice for dealing with rust was to move farms to uninfected areas of the world. In the 1800s, when rust decimated the coffee plantations of Ceylon, it was possible to move to a new continent and establish new farms, but those days are now long past.

There are no guarantees that coffee will survive to be a viable crop in the future. The question now is: how do we go forward? Governments face one financial crisis after another, and individual producers lack the funds necessary to find the answer. By pooling resources, the coffee industry can work together to sustain coffee as a commodity of the future.

“Coffee is the second most important commodity in the world after petroleum,” says Tim Schilling, Director of World Coffee Research. “However, there has been less research conducted on it than peanuts or kumquats.”

The major thrust of the World Coffee Research strategy is the creation of a toolbox of coffee varieties, genetic resources, accompanying technologies, and the dissemination of those technologies strategically and collaboratively in producing countries to alleviate current and future constraints to the supply chain of high quality coffees. The six prongs of this effort are:

1. Low hanging fruit. The International Variety Trial will allow countries to make fast yield and quality gains through replacement of underperforming varieties with high-quality selections.

2. Unleashing Arabica’s full power. Breeding efforts will broaden the narrow genetic bases to produce the next generation of varieties with exceptional quality, yield, disease resistance, and climate resiliency.

3. No more shooting in the dark. The Sensory Project will develop new sensory methods for more efficient and discriminatory evaluations.

4. The call of the wild. The coffee biodiversity project will allow identifying, collecting, and preserving key Arabica strains from the wild to use in breeding the next generation of varieties.

5. Getting it to the grower. Partnerships between public and private sectors will provide funding sources to extend WCR technologies in key producing countries.

6. Taking care of Rust. A multi-million dollar public-private collaborative project with United States Agency for International Development will aim at restoring productivity and building higher levels of quality, yield, and resistant varieties.

Who Will Benefit from this Project?
Revitalizing the Central American, Caribbean and Peruvian CoffeeThe initiative has multiple parts. First, we must provide emergency technical assistance and credit to farmers, farmer groups, and cooperatives. In the short-term for this research and development project, the goal is to assist producers in making the best investment decisions in choosing varietals for plantation renovation. In the long-term investment of this project, the goal is to secure superior, higher-performing, resistant material from around the world, to test the material against local varieties, and to advance the best varieties to farmer evaluation and eventual commercialization.

What You Can Do to Help
World Coffee Research works openly, creating more access points down to the farmer so that everyone in the value chain has an opportunity to benefit from the work and to take part in ensuring the supply of quality coffees continues into the future.

Because World Coffee Research is a 501 (c)(5) non-profit, anyone can become a member of World Coffee Research through a donation, which is tax deductible for those in the coffee industry. Learn more about becoming a member at

rows_s copyFor roasters and importers, there is a check-off program, similar to check-off programs in other commodities, which is also tax deductible. The proposed rate is a half of a cent ($0.005) per pound assessment on all Arabica coffee imported into the United States. Funds are collected by the importer and given to the World Coffee Research on a quarterly basis. As many importers choose to match funds with roasters, the importer’s donation amount can be doubled. Learn more at

If you would like to have a World Coffee Research representative meet with you and your company, please contact us at 1.979.458.5579 or email us at

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