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Interview: Mexican coffee production begins recovery from stem rust plague
Last Updated: 2016-07-10 07:22 | Xinhua
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Mexican coffee production is beginning to get back to its full potential after having had half of its crops destroyed by stem rust spores since 2013, said Felix Martinez, president of the National Association of the Coffee Industry (ANICAFE).

"We have touched the bottom. The most likely situation is that the curve will now begin to turn upward," Martinez told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Production fell from 4.5 million bags of 60 kilograms in the 2012 production cycle to just 2.3 million bags in the current cycle, due to stem rust.

ANICAFE now predicts that production will reach 2.7 million bags in 2017 and will return to 2012 level over the next three years.

"However, the goal is not to stay at that level. It is to produce more," Martinez told Xinhua during the 2016 Latin American Coffee Summit, which is being held in Mexico City from July 7-9.

ANICAFE also plans to reach 10 million bags of 60 kilos within ten years. For this milestone to be reached, the states of Chiapas, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Puebla and Guerrero will be crucial, since they combine to provide around 80 percent of Mexico's coffee crop.

Stem rust, which has battered Mexico and Central America harder than usual in recent years, infects the outer layers of the coffee stalk, reducing their productivity or even killing them. An infection just three weeks before harvesting can turn a healthy coffee crop into almost nothing.

Martinez said that stem rust caused up to 500 million U.S. dollars in losses for each harvest in recent years. However, he was buoyed by the fact that producers and the government have teamed up efficiently to create new mechanisms and fight it.

Over the last year, the Ministry of Agriculture has launched programs to strengthen innovation and technological development for coffee production, create plants which are resistant to stem rust, replant thousands of hectares and provide financial assistance to coffee growers.

Furthermore, the Ministry has announced the creation of a Mexican Coffee Institute in order to ensure policy continuity across different governments.

"The issue now is innovation and renovation. The coffee plantations are being renovated with more varieties and more resistant plants but the most important thing is that the number of plants per hectare is increasing," concluded Martinez.

Mexico is one of the world's top ten coffee producing countries. In 2015, it produced over 234 million kilograms of coffee beans. Enditem

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