That morning cup of joe, cream included, was a luxury for Kansa and his wife, Connie, while they vacationed in northern
The downstate couple didn't notice when they paid a few extra cents per cup -- most coffee consumers wouldn't bat an eye at an extra dime tacked to the price of their favorite
Thousands of miles south of the
They also knew little about "la roya," or rust, a plant fungus that decimated coffee crops throughout
"I read about that," said Bob Kansa, referring to news during recent months. A year ago, few outside of the coffee industry would perk up their ears at the mention of dwindling coffee crops.
"People can enjoy their morning cup of coffee and not even need to worry about how their coffee was grown," said
"We're one of a few coffee roasters in the country that are 100 percent fair trade."
Treter now is working with On the Ground, a nonprofit he helped found, to support its Project Nica, a project raising money to help Nicaraguan coffee farmers respond to the coffee rust epidemic.
"La roya" appeared in Central American coffee crops a handful of years ago, but this year caused widespread damage. The fungus kills entire fields of coffee trees. It's a setback from which it takes poor farmers about five years to recover.
Treter compared the devastation to the frost that destroyed the cherry crop in northern
"I've seen a lot of it and a lot of our partner farmers are being impacted by it," Treter said. "Last year I visited four co-ops. Two of them didn't export anything this year."
The problem became so severe that USAID in June joined forces with several major coffee companies and cooperatives to provide
"It's a long term problem," Treter said. "In the long term I foresee coffee prices skyrocketing. ...Once you have the coffee rust, you have to cut the tree down. You don't have anything for three years (the time it takes before new trees fruit)."
A few miles down the road from Treter's roastery workers at
The bags boasted labels from almost every coffee producing country, including some from those countries hardest hit by rust.
"This is not an overnight problem," Davis said. "
Davis pointed to a few major crises and corresponding spikes in coffee prices during his 13 years importing and roasting beans. The coffee market is normally pretty volatile, and prices on futures markets like the NASDAQ rose about 20 percent during the past six weeks.
"When I got into this business, prices were under
Higher prices don't directly benefit farmers who often sell their coffee in advance at prices set months before the harvest, Davis said.
"Higher prices do not automatically mean higher income for the grower," he said. "But it does lead to more stability."
Prices aren't going to be the only problem. The declining output from many coffee producers means importers and roasters may not be able to get some coffees.
"Next year is going to be a problem," Davis said.
Davis helped a group of
"We partnered with our suppliers; that makes us look really smart right now," Davis said.
Both roasters expect consumers will continue to see rising coffee prices in the next year, but few make the connection between prices at home and the crisis elsewhere.
You can watch a streaming version of "Connected by Coffee" at www.connectedbycoffee.com.
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