Coffee industry looks to combat challenges with research

Global Business

In Colombia’s coffee growing region, 200 Colombian men and women are working tirelessly to solve some of the coffee industries toughest challenges. The National Coffee Research Center is in the middle of Colombia’s coffee growing region.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue has more from Caldas, Colombia

“We are located in a coffee region where our coffee is the basis of our economy and we have farmers who are particular and because our problems were particular to Colombia, no one else could solve it,” said Carmenza Gongora, Cenicafé scientist.

One of those problems is a fungus called coffee leaf rust or roya in Spanish, which exists globally and has devastated Central American coffee farms over the past few years. Coffee leaf rust was one of the most damaging diseases that hit South and Central America from 2008 to 2013.

Since 2012, the disease has cost more than $1 billion in damages to coffee plant farms. To build coffee strands that are resistant to these diseases, Colombian researchers at Cenicafé combined different coffees to create new ones.

After 20 years, Cenicafé researchers released a new coffee variety, Cenicafé 1 in 2016.

“First of all, it is resistance to coffee rust, it is also highly productive and it is low in stature. This makes it a popular variety,” said Gongora.

Since the development of Cenicafé 1, the research center says they are creating large coffee quantities for distribution to Colombian coffee growers. But the job for scientists isn’t over with a new coffee strand. The future of coffee is at risk now more than ever before. Australian based think-tank Climate Institute says coffee production as a whole could be reduced to half by 2050 due to climate change.

With this in mind, the Colombian research center hopes to be at the forefront of solutions.

“Cenicafé is studying all the top issues, such as climate change mitigation, to new coffee varieties and research into diseases, and new equipment to help with the collection of coffee beans,” said Roberto Velez, President of National Coffee Federation.

It takes time and money to develop new coffee plants, but coffee growers and drinkers alike are depending on it.