Some headlines hit closer to home than others, and this one threatens to affect the cherished morning routine of millions of coffee drinkers. Coffee rust, a fungus, Hemileia vastatrix, that attacks Arabica coffee trees has already destroyed the varietal in Java, Indonesia and threatens more crops worldwide. Arabica beans are used for high-end coffee such as espresso and other drinks. It has reached Central America and is causing alarming damage there.
The fungus has been known of since the 1800s, and destroyed coffee production in Asia, an area which no longer produces significant coffee crops. However, its recent spread and difficult containment when it becomes airborne, threatens anew. Once it affects a coffee tree, and without fungicide treatment, it will kill the plant in several years.
Experts estimate that coffee production from Central America may fall by 15 to 40 percent in coming years, severely impacting a $100 billion industry with 25 million workers. The concern is that once coffee is no longer an active crop, desperate farmers may turn to drug production (Marc Lallanilla, “Trouble Brewing for Coffee Crop, Thanks to Fungus,” LiveScience at News.Yahoo.com, May 19, 2014).
Just like the weather, a seemingly small event can trigger a cataclysm. Who would think that a tiny spore of fungus could reshape an entire economic system, but the potential is there. We live in a tenuous world, much of our perceived stability depends on God’s mercy.