Central American coffee fungus seen costing industry $500 mln
SAN JOSE, Feb 19 (Reuters) - The spread of the tree-killing fungus roya is expected to cost Central America's coffee industry roughly half a billion dollars during the current 2012/2013 harvesting season, the Honduran agriculture minister said Tuesday at a regional forum.
Agriculture ministers from each of Central America's major coffee-producing countries plus the Dominican Republic convened the meeting on the outskirts of the Costa Rican capital to flesh out a regional response to a worsening roya outbreak.
"The (regional) economic impact has been quantified at $500 million," Honduran agriculture minister Jacobo Regalado said, adding that 500,000 farmers have been affected.
According to data from the regional coffee organization PROMECAFE, the loss during the current season is expected to reach 20 percent, compared with the previous 2011/2012 season.
Last month, Central America's major coffee export organization ORCECA said roya, or coffee leaf rust, would cause the current harvest to shrink by 16 percent compared to the previous harvest.
Mexico and Central America's five top coffee producing countries, home to more than one-fifth of the world's high-end arabica coffee crop, have confirmed roya outbreaks this season.
(Reporting by Isabella Cota; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)