Coffee plant fungus could mean higher coffee prices

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - If you count on a morning cup of joe to get you started every morning, you may have heard about "coffee rust." It's a fungus decimating coffee bean farms in some Latin American countries.

Those in the industry say if the destruction continues, you may be paying a lot more for your coffee.

"We started seeing it about two years ago," said Richard Colt, co-owner of Java Pura Roasting Company in southwest Houston.

Colt travels to El Salvador, Panama and Costa Rica where his company gets its beans. While he says the farms growing his product have been spared, he's seen the fungus in those countries.

"I didn't see entire farms," Colt explained. "But, you know, by the road you could see trees that were decimated."

On Monday the U.S. government announced a $5 million partnership with Texas A&M University's World Coffee Research Center to try and eliminate the fungus.

A&M's Keith Cole said the center is already conducting trials in 10 different countries to try and breed a type of plant that is resistant to the fungus. He said  researchers are not only concerned about the rising cost of coffee. If the fungus puts farms out of business, it will increase poverty and hunger in Central America, and that will lead to violence and drug trafficking.

"My guess is it will effect the whole coffee industry and therefore effect our prices next year," said Colt.

The coffee roaster explained that coffee beans in Central America have already been harvested this year. The next chance for a price increase due to increased supply will be next year.

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