The Costa Rica News (TCRN) – Costa Rica’s government has began the distribution of a trust for $40 million in support for small coffee growers whose plantations were affected last year by the rust fungus.

The president of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla, gave the first grants to 12 families in the community of Coto Brus, a depressed area in the south of the country that was strongly affected.

A total of 16,600 families will have access to about $10 million in financial support, with an average of $200 per month for each of them, in order to help them survive while their plants are recovered.

The remaining $30 million of the trust will go to financial assistance programs as soft loans for the care and renovation of coffee plantations for seed capital and to pay debts.

Escrow is aimed at farmers with a production of less than 2,346 kilograms (51 bushels) per crop, which represents 81% of the 52,000 coffee producers in the country who produce about 25% of Costa Rica’s harvest.

According to the Costa Rican Coffee Institute, Costa Rica lost at least 18% of its harvest from 2013 to 2014 by the rust fungus, which affected about 60% of the coffee plantations in the country.

The fungus weakens the plant and causes the leaves to fall off.  The fungus has been present in the country for 30 years, but it had never hit more than 5% of the coffee plants, which has changed since the end of 2012 due to variations in rainfall patterns and the age of many plants, experts say.

Last January the Costa Rican government decreed the fungus as an emergency situation, which also affects the rest of Central America, and began free distribution of agrochemicals and information to combat the fungus.

The Costa Rica News (TCRN)

San Jose, Costa Rica