New Brunswick, NJ (June 28, 2021) – The socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 is likely to lead to another major manufacturing crisis in the coffee industry, according to a study conducted by Rutgers University.
The study that appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, including researchers from the University of Arizona, University of Hawaii at Hilo, CIRAD, Santa Clara University, Purdue University West Lafayette, and the University of Exeter.
“Any major impact on the global coffee industry will have a serious impact on millions of people around the world, including the coffee retail market here in the United States,” said lead author Kevon Rhiney, assistant professor in the Rutgers Department of Geography. New Brunswick.
Coffee is one of the most traded agricultural commodities in the world and secures the livelihood of around 100 million people worldwide, especially in low-income countries. But the industry has long struggled with many pressures, including institutional reforms, fluctuations in market prices, extreme climates, and plant diseases and pests. And over the past year, COVID-19 has become a new threat to the coffee industry as it acts as a potential trigger for renewed epidemics of coffee leaf rust, the world’s most serious coffee plant disease.
The researchers drew on recent studies of the fungal disease, which has hit several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean badly over the past decade. They examined how previous outbreaks have been linked to poor harvests and investments in coffee farms, and how the effects of COVID-19 on work, unemployment, home orders and international border policies affect investments in coffee plants, and in turn create conditions could be conducive to future shocks.
The researchers concluded that the socio-economic disruptions from COVID-19 are likely to propel the coffee industry into another major manufacturing crisis.
“Our paper shows that coffee rust outbreaks are complex socio-economic phenomena and that fighting the disease also requires a mix of scientific and social solutions,” Rhiney said. “There is no ‘silver bullet’ that can make this problem go away. Tackling coffee rust involves more than just tackling outbreaks; it is also about securing the livelihood of the farmers in order to strengthen their resilience to future shocks. “
The researchers said the challenges posed by coffee leaf rust reflect a trend towards disease-related breakdowns in recent years in major global commodity markets such as bananas and cocoa, where large-scale cultivation of individual plants and homogenization of plant traits facilitate the spread of disease.
They conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the interconnectedness of the global coffee system as both a vulnerability and a source of strength.
“The spread of COVID-19 and coffee rust both show the systemic weaknesses and inequalities of our social and economic systems,” Rhiney said. “We can therefore only have a healthy coffee system if we build the well-being of the weakest,” the team said. It is vital to recognize the key roles of work and healthy ecosystems in generating and sustaining profits. This means questioning the status quo and current coffee value chains in order to better recognize the value produced by small producers, while at the same time surveying essential but underestimated parts of the production process such as human health, food security and sustainability. “
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