By Yogesh Pokharel, Kathmandu, Jan. 10: Coffee farmers and stakeholders have warned that Nepali coffee might be wiped out within a few years from now if no urgent steps were taken to protect it from the endemic coffee leaf rust.
The coffee leaf rust (CLR) is a disease caused by a fungus, Hemileia castatrix, and is SPREADING in many coffee producing districts and has destroyed several coffee orchards in Nepal.
Talking to The Rising Nepal, Prachanda Man Shrestha, chairperson of Beautiful Coffee Nepal, said that the rust had widely destroyed the coffee plants in many districts in Nepal and demanded urgent steps to control it.
“Though coffee rust was identified recently, it had already spread in many coffee orchards of Nepal,” he suspected.
“Nepali coffee farmers even do not have expertise what step to take next to protect our coffee from it,” Shrestha said and added that the concerned stakeholders should work to find immediate solution or it would be too late to protect Nepali coffee.
He asked the concerned stakeholder to take prompt action with expert’s advice to control the rust.
“There is an urgent need of bringing experts to help suggest what steps to take in such a situation,” he said.
Bal Bahadur KC, former chairman of District Coffee Cooperative Union, Lalitpur, said that the endemic rust has posed serious threat to the coffee in the district.
“The rust has destroyed more than 75 per cent coffee trees in Durlung Organic Coffee Cooperative and affected all the coffee producing areas of the district,” he said.
Thuladurlung, Gimdi, Chandanpur, Pyutar and Kamidanda are major coffee producing village development committees (VDCs) in Lalitpur district.
He said that coffee production has reduced by more than 50 per cent and warned that the plants would be totally eliminated within next five years if urgent steps were not taken to project Nepali coffee from this disease.
He said that the production of coffee had fallen sharply owing to the infection of White Stem Borer and suspected that the endemic coffee leaf rust might eradicate Nepali coffee.
Lalitpur district would produce more than 62 metric tonnes of dry parchment coffee. However, the production has fallen down to less then 20 metric tonnes dry parchment in 2015.
Coffee rust was officially identified in Nepal in April 2015. However, the disease had severely affected many coffee orchards in Lalitpur and other districts in the country.
Meanwhile, the National Tea and Coffee Development Board (NTCDB) has formed a team under its coordination to curb the transmission of the endemic rust and devise necessary measures for its control and management.
“We have formed a team including representatives from all stakeholders and institutions working with coffee to take immediate step for the control and management of the disease,” Raghupati Chaudhari, Deputy Executive Director at the NTCDB, said.
He informed that the team would request Nepal Agricultural Research Council, Ministry of Agriculture Development and other organisations for it.
He said that the disease was reported to have damaged coffee in Lalitpur, Kavre, Syanja and Kaski districts.
The chances of the transmission of the disease in other parts of the country is equally high as the disease transmits through air.
Coffee is one of the major emerging cash crops in Nepal. Nepal produces around 450 metric tonnes green beans coffee annually, almost 70 per cent of which is exported.