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Overheard at the First International Coffee Rust Summit

First International Coffee Rust Summit

Creative Commons photo via CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture

by Michael Sheridan of CRS Coffeelands Blog

The first day of the First International Coffee Rust Summit is in the books. Here are some of the quotes and notes that stood out most for me from the first full day of proceedings:


How the executive directors of some of the world’s leading coffee organizations framed the event.

  • “This is not a typical conference where you come to sit and learn.  It is much more oriented toward finding solutions.” – Tim Schilling, Executive Director, World Coffee Research
  • “We have the resources, knowledge and will to control coffee rust.” – Elsa Murano, Executive Director, Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture
  • “Lasting solutions will require collaboration between public and private sector actors all along the coffee chain…The private sector is not capable of addressing this crisis alone.  And governments can’t do it alone in a world that is ever more complex and specialized.” – Roberio Oliveira Silva, Executive Director, International Coffee Organization
  • “This kind of event represents the best hope we have to address not just coffee rust but all the shared challenges we face.” – Ric Rhinehart, Executive Director, Specialty Coffee Association of America
  • “We are anxious to work with coffee farmers as partners in a common cause: protecting the well-being of the Central American coffee community.” – Robert Nelson, President and CEO, National Coffee Association
  • “Coffee rust is a symptom of the problems our coffee sectors face in the region.” – Armando García, Executive Secretary, PROMECAFE


  • 2.3 million 60-kilo sacks in lost production
  • $550 million in lost farmer income
  • 500,000 jobs lost

        – source: PROMECAFE


Aging coffee plantations

  • 60 percent of the coffee in Honduras is older than 20 years.  (IHCAFE Executive Director Víctor Hugo Molina)
  • 30-40 percent of the coffee in Costa Rica is older than 30 years (ICAFE Executive Director Ronald Peters)
  • We have coffee that is 80 years old.  (CODOCAFE Executive Director José Núñez; He later told me that he is 53 years old.  He started working on his grandfather’s coffee farm when he was 7 or 8 years old, and his family is still farming the coffee he harvested as a boy.)

Limited institutional capacity.

  • Honduras’ coffee institute has 120 coffee agronomists.
  • Guatemala’s has 117.


  • “An epidemic is a race between a plant and a pathogen.”
  • “Climate change was the detonator.”
  • “Shade coffee resisted rust more effectively than sun-grown coffee.”
  • “Now is the time to renovate.”

        — Jacques Avelino, Coffee Rust Pathologist,  CIRAD-CATIE

  • “Many people said there was not enough warning.  There was some warning.  It started in 2010.”
  • “All non-resistant varieties were affected, including Catimor.  Could we be seeing breakdown of resistance?  It does happen.”
  •  ”In summary — it’s complicated.”

        – Peter Baker,  Coffee Agronomist, CABI


Using resistant varieties

  • “We do not think moving to resistant varieties is the only answer.”

        – Anacafé


  • “I don’t know how organic coffee can have a future.  There is nothing that works to control rust in the field and I am not seeing anyone in the market offering more to create additional  incentives for organic farmers.”

        – Miguel Medina, Anacafé


  •  ”Fungicides are like a car.  If you drive a car at 50km an hour, it is safe.  If you drive at 200 km, it is not.”

        – Marco Dutra, Syngenta


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