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Epidemics and the future of coffee production

Rhiney K., Guido Z., Knudson C., Avelino J., Bacon C.M., Leclerc G., Aime M.C., Bebber D.P.. 2021. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118 (27) : 10 p..

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2023212118

In this perspective, we draw on recent scientific research on the coffee leaf rust (CLR) epidemic that severely impacted several countries across Latin America and the Caribbean over the last decade, to explore how the socioeconomic impacts from COVID-19 could lead to the reemergence of another rust epidemic. We describe how past CLR outbreaks have been linked to reduced crop care and investment in coffee farms, as evidenced in the years following the 2008 global financial crisis. We discuss relationships between CLR incidence, farmer-scale agricultural practices, and economic signals transferred through global and local effects. We contextualize how current COVID-19 impacts on labor, unemployment, stay-at-home orders, and international border policies could affect farmer investments in coffee plants and in turn create conditions favorable for future shocks. We conclude by arguing that COVID-19's socioeconomic disruptions are likely to drive the coffee industry into another severe production crisis. While this argument illustrates the vulnerabilities that come from a globalized coffee system, it also highlights the necessity of ensuring the well-being of all. By increasing investments in coffee institutions and paying smallholders more, we can create a fairer and healthier system that is more resilient to future social-ecological shocks.

Mots-clés : maladie des plantes; hemileia vastatrix; rouille; coffea; covid-19; impact économique; impacts socio-économiques; crise économique; Épidémiologie; industrie du café; agro-industrie; amérique latine; caraïbes; crise sanitaire

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