U.S. intensifies fight against coffee rust in Latin America

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Costa Rican coffee farmer Corrales shows coffee beans affected by a tree-killing fungus known as roya in Perez ZeledonThe Obama administration is teaming up with researchers from Texas to intensify the battle against a fungus that has caused $1 billion in damage to coffee plants across Latin America and the Caribbean, U.S. foreign aid officials said on Sunday. Especially hard hit have been Central America’s arabica coffee plants, which produce high-quality beans used in espressos and gourmet specialty blends that are in growing demand in the United States and elsewhere around the world. Moreover, the blight is jeopardizing the livelihood and food security of about 500,000 people who make their living in the coffee industry, especially small farmers and seasonal workers, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In a new program to be formally announced on Monday, USAID is launching a $5 million partnership with Texas A&M University’s World Coffee Research that seeks to eradicate the fungus, the agency said in a statement.