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World at Work: Guatemala

By Jane Hwang - 2013-02-21T14:44:44Z

Photograph by Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

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Workers pick coffee beans in an area affected by the roya coffee fungus on the Finca San Isidro Chacaya coffee plantation in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. First found in Latin America in the 1970s, the disease is caused by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix, which attacks plants’ foliage, interferes with their ability to photosynthesize, and prevents beans from reaching full maturity.

"Irregular, heavy rains in August, followed by an extended period of sunshine and high winds, created the perfect humid conditions for the disease to spread at unprecedented rates,” Buitrago said in a telephone interview from Managua, Nicaragua. The situation was exacerbated when this year’s harvest began in October, because coffee pickers carry the spores from the fungus on their clothes, undermining attempts to curb the disease with fungicides, he said.