Jul 10, 2013


Sin Embargo
By: Emma Martinez Landeros
July 8, 2013
Original Americas Program Translation 

The failure of both the state and federal governments to address the epidemic in coffee regions in Chiapas will generate a drop of 50% of its production, produce more unemployment, and therefore, greater social conflict.

El Soconusco, Chiapas, July 8 (Sin Embargo). - Pablo Hernandez (72 years) is a small coffee producer, who every day, rain or shine, at 4am walks for 60 minutes until reaching Recibidero, where he works on three acres of land.

Since late 2011, Pablo lived one of the greatest tragedies of his life. It is now over a year when he began to notice that the leaves of some of his plantations began to fall rapidly and its backs were stained orange. Without stopping to think, he quickly concluded that it was rust. He could not save his crop, because today all plants are infected.

Since 2011 this pest has devastated coffee trees in Latin American countries, from Brazil to Mexico. It is a fungus that grows on the leaves and after they fall, the plant weakens and fails to produce future fruit. The infection spreads rapidly to other areas through packaging bags or by the dispersion of the rain and wind.

When talking about the best coffee beans in the world we rarely stop to think about the exact region where they are harvested, because we usually recognize them by their country of origin.

In southern Mexico, El Soconusco, Chiapas is located on the border with Guatemala and is the leading producer of Mexican coffee, which is characterized as high quality 100% organic.  In the region, grain quality had been maintained and protected against attach by pests.

In 2012 the rust attacked coffee severely this area, causing losses of up to 50%, according to testimony from small producers and farmers in the private sector.

The so-called "Coffee Route" now could become a "Walking Disaster", which puts at risk the survival of the coffee farmer, and thus one of the most important economic activities of the country.

Founded in 1888 by Arthur Edelmann, originally from Perleberg, Germany, the farm Hamburg is a clear description of Paradise: maintaining a microclimate that varies between 16 and 22 degrees interspersed with exotic landscapes surrounding 287 hectares producing tall coffee.

To protect and maintain the quality of the plantations, its owner, Thomas Edelmann Blass explained using latest generation fungicides manufactured by companies recognized worldwide. Apply the product three times a year between May and September, for which they invest between 2500 and 2800 pesos per hectare, excluding investment in equipment and labor.

In August of last year rust was detected. Edelmann Tomas explains that they provision two applications of fungicides, but only managed to secure 50% of the area attacked by fungus and other coffee crops suffered severe defoliation. Before the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development knew the situation, Fisheries and Food (Sagarpa) reported they were suffering from the onslaught. The agency assessed the damaged area in Chiapas, copper oxychloride providing fumigation, but did not work. Were asked to declare the plant alert but due to change of government that did not happen.

In the case of the Hamburg farm that underwent pruning of 140 hectares (of 287 they have) to renew the plant tissue with the idea of applying the necessary care to produce again in two years, however, they are irreparable losses. As an example, this property is only produced 11,000 quintals of coffee and last year dropped to 7000. In this year, according to Blass Edelmann, it only produced about 3 500. The cost of a quintal, which contains 47 kilos of coffee, is currently $150, but because of the plague of rust investment in care is $ 300.


With the goal of alert declaration, small producers and those in the private sector for the first time joined in a struggle that seeks to rescue their production and income. They say it would lead to the opening of programs to facilitate long-term loans at low rates, by the development banks, plantations to renew with rust resistant varieties and at the same time, apply for building a center for research and pest monitoring for frequent review of coffee to avoid propagation of pests like those spreading today.

Given the authorities' refusal to proclaim the declaration of disaster, in February 12, 2013 dozens of coffee farmers called a press conference seeking to give voice to their cause, their need to renew externship coffee, and requiring Sagarpa to take measures to address this problem urgently.

The central message of this session was "we are asking the federal and state governments to not expect fireballs to fall over us to see, how a aromatic important grain crop disappears. The progress of this disease is over 40% in Chiapas and is approaching the state of Veracruz; since rust in coffee has mutated and is not known for sure what type it is now. "At that time there was no response.

Lucila Margarita Guzman, who has four acres of coffee plantations, states that are curated within the Trinity community in Chiapas, has been commissioned to represent small farmers who have become bankrupt in the attempt to save their plants with fungicides had no effect against rust.

After surrendering to the authorities of the Commission for the Development and Promotion of Coffee (Comcafe) letters requesting support, Lucila waited for over five months in hopes of an answer that last June had not arrived. She explains that those responsible for the receipt of such documents merely tell her to be patient, as they would analyze carefully her request. It also promised a meeting with the authorities, but this was not done. She says that desperation began to grab the coffee farmers whose only source of incomes is coffee; she is a single mother with two daughters in school and expenses accumulate every day while the rust advances rapidly.

As the days passed and they are unable to reach any agreement with the authorities, the June 5 producers held a march of 7 miles which also included members of the private sector, which included a total blockage of a major international road in order to lobby the federal government for a partnership to open way for the declaration of emergency plant.

That day, the manager of the Regional Agricultural Union of Coffee Producers Tacaná, Richard Trampe Tauver, said: "This movement is due to the omission of authority in addressing the rust, as next we will see the fall of 50% in production and we will have a very negative social impact. "It also stated that "the problem is so severe that exceeds the Mexican state and definitely needed the intervention of the United Nations Organization for Agriculture (FAO, for its acronym in English) internationally, because to combat and control rust at an early stage about 135 million pesos must be allocated to 45 000 hectares, as of now only 30 thousand pesos have been allocated. For his part, Thomas Edelmann, also a member of the Union of Coffee Tacaná, said that "unfortunately in our country to be heard we must resort to such manifestations."

The result was a telephone conversation with Secretary General of Government, Noe Castanon Leon, who agreed that he was unaware that there was a problem and they would strive to schedule a meeting between affected and authorities as soon as possible. So, after 14 hours of blockade, the protesters decided to reopen the road under the warning that if they did not get a dialogue they would again resort to protests.


On June 18 of this year was the first time that the Governor of Chiapas, Manuel Velasco Coello, visited a community coffee plantation. He presented the program "Sustainable Management and Control of Coffee Rust", which is to come into effect without affecting the ecological environment in 720 locations of biotech coffee and utilizes a fungicide called DR-43 supplemented with biofertilizer called AITIA for regeneration plants.

Also, at that meeting they promised delivery, at first, of 880 sprayers, with which they plan to benefit more than 25,000 farmers, applying the fungicide in 44 000 hectares cultivated. He argued that this action in Chiapas makes a global pioneer in the use of environmentally friendly technologies.

This arises as the solution that will ensure that they meet the five priority objectives, both the federal government, headed by Enrique Peña Nieto, as the state and local agencies:

1. Controlling the problem of rust.
2. Keep 100% organic coffee.
3. Get more productivity.
4. Improve the income of farmers and their families.
5. Making coffee remains the economic engine of Chiapas.

However, the program still does not convince the producers. With 11 hectares of coffee, producer and president of the society cooperatives States to Be Well, Colonel Ismael Gomez, established with a group of small producers an information desk in the central park of Tapachula waiting for a convincing response by the President. Even with the visit of Governor Velasco Coello, a meeting which neither Gomez Coronel nor other hundreds of coffee growers were invited to, still showed no sight of an effective solution due to the distrust they have relative to the fungicide, which is ironically called "miracle product". Already in a meeting with the CEO of Productivity and Technological Development Sagarpa Mendez Belisario Dominguez, who maintains the position that the plague of rust "is not a serious problem as to declare phytosanitary alert", he questioned the quality the fungicide, because according to Colonel Gomez, to be recognized and be granted the certification it must have been endured a five years of probation period. In this case, he said, it had apparently only been tested for 60 days in Veracruz, where the climate is different from Chiapas.

Meanwhile, Edelmann Blass explains that coffee farmers, landowners and small farmers were offered the same support that the program includes. Although not entirely sure about the quality of the fungicide, will give "the benefit of the doubt, but still accept that there are reasons to be wary, because as far as is known to be a new element has not even been certified by government agencies and has not been found to be effective in any way. "Note that when searching online information AITIA DR-43 there is no description or definition, nor any company that manufactures and distributes or something else other than the briefing notes that highlight its presentation by the Governor of Chiapas.


While Mendez Belisario Dominguez said Chiapas "started a new history in the production of coffee, which is made possible by the line that marked the President to ensure the interests of the country's coffee sector", both small producers as those in the private sector explained that the replacement of each infected plant, in addition to the monetary cost, it will take five years to produce fruit and the government spoke of support through credits.

The private sector may be able to process credit with commercial banks to renew long-term plantations and continue the activity, but unfortunately, as explained by Thomas Edelmann, "small producers do not have access to such loans without support agriculture would be devastating consequences, since it is becoming a social problem of national security."

The Research Program for World Café (WCR, for its acronym in English) reported in 2013 that the impact of rust on the trees has caused the loss of over half a million jobs worldwide. In the case of Chiapas, 140 thousand families depend directly on coffee producers, which have no access to credit. Only about a thousand farmers have more than 10 acres each, and the other half have two, the most affected because they are those who have lost 100% of its plantations.

The logical consequences of unemployment also reached the laborers and coffee pickers. An estate of over 200 acres generally permanently hired 100 families and according to potential need hired a thousand growers at harvest time, between October and February. This time they expect to use the service of only 50% of staff due to the drop in production, but could become less than if the y do not achieve the necessary funds to continue with the work culture.

This year, according to the International Coffee Organization (ICO), it is estimated that the unemployment rate in the coffee category in Chiapas would be 220 thousand people. This result, according to the farmers, would lead to the rise of organized crime, because the attacks would rise in these communities and the surrounding area.

In a tour conducted by several points of the coffee zones of Chiapas, there was a widespread fear among the peasants, and now with the agony of their plantations, a last output of despair can be weapons. So expect the federal government sensitivity do this as soon as possible.

Gomez Coronel judges this a warning on behalf of people to the federal government, as has happened in the past with other social problems in which it decided to ignore and minimized the problem. The only thing the producers have left for now is to keep trying through demonstrations. This July, Gomez Coronel and coffee producers commission will undertake a march to the Mexico City, in every town they cross on their 102 thousand miles march, they will stop to inform and raise public awareness about the problem that the sector coffee farmer suffers. When they reach their destination in Mexico City, they will await dialogue, if not directly with President Enrique Pena Nieto, at least with some authority that will provide the help necessary to rescue the coffee business.

Original Spanish Article 
Translated by Yadira Diaz-Ramirez
Edited by Nidia Bautista

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