Eighty-three percent of adults in America drink coffee. It’s the world’s second-most traded commodity, and it’s delicious. But there’s more to the country’s favorite hot beverage than meets the eye. From the sublime to the horrifying, coffee is a fascinating natural resource that has had a profound cultural impact around the world.
Deadly Coffee Crime Wave In Kenya
An epidemic of theft and violence is sweeping the coffee industry in Kenya, a country where a kilo of dried beans can be worth a week’s wages. A special police force has been set up to deal with the problem, but raids by armed gangs are a daily occurrence. Coffee growers are being forced to sleep in their fields so they can fend off would-be thieves. The thieves aren’t subtle, with reports of security guards at coffee factories being shot with arrows and beaten to death with branches. Villagers have taken to fighting fire with fire, and criminals caught in the act have been lynched in the street.
While coffee is grown on tens of thousands of small farms throughout the country, exports are only managed through licensed operations. The coffee thieves are able to make money because of corruption reaching right to the top of the tree. With 5 million people in Kenya dependent on the coffee industry to make a living, it’s a daunting issue for the government to overcome.
Coffee Rust Devastates Central America
Coffee rust is a fungal disease that attacks the leaves of the coffee plant. It gets its name from the distinctive orange patches it causes. The disease, which has blighted crops since the 19th century, eventually kills the plants and is a threat to the livelihoods of farmers around the world. The Arabica plant, favored by coffee connoisseurs, is coffee rust’s main victim, and countries that grow Arabica beans are currently suffering an epidemic.
In February 2013, Guatemala declared a state of agricultural emergency due to coffee rust and has provided $14 million for farmers to buy pesticides. Seventy percent of their national crop has been impacted, and there are similar circumstances throughout the region. Unfortunately, that means you may end up having to pay more for a decent cup of coffee in the next couple of years.