Jolt of aid approved for struggling coffee farmers

May 1, 2014

Six months after President Laura Chinchilla’s government proposed ₡20 billion — roughly $40 million — in aid to Costa Rica’s struggling coffee farmers, the Comptroller General’s Office approved the project, according to a statement last Friday.

On Monday, the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry requested the Finance Ministry transfer funds to the Banco de Costa Rica, which will distribute the aid.

Costa Rican coffee farmers have been hit hard in recent years by a one-two punch from the destructive leaf rust fungus roya, along with low international prices for Arabica coffee. The scourge has left many small farmers in debt and without income.

Some 48,000 small producers are set to receive the benefits in the form of low interest loans, social assistance and programs to help them replant their farms and cover their debts, among other projects, according to the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry.

In an attempt to curb the spread of the defoliant disease, the Costa Rican Coffee Institute (ICAFE) started distributing a new roya-resistant variety of coffee called Obatá from Brazil.

In December 2013, ICAFE estimated the 2013-2014 harvest would shrink 19 percent from the the previous year because of lingering crop damage from leaf rust and low international prices driving farmers out of the market.

In February, ICAFE reported the country exported 138,031 60-kilogram bags of coffee between October 2013 and January 2014, a 30 percent decrease from the 180,735 bags exported during the same period last year.

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