(Bloomberg News) Coffee picker Hector Gonzalez says he feels pain as he watches leaves stripped off plants from a fungus infecting 70 percent of the crop on the Salvadoran farm where he works.
"The hurt of losing this work is like losing your life," Gonzalez said in a phone interview. "The hills look like a desert, like a fire came through."
His farm's harvest, which once employed thousands of workers, now requires about 100, he said.
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The International Coffee Organization (ICO) estimates 437,000 workers in Central America will be jobless after an outbreak of coffee rust this year, and more will be affected next season. From Guatemala to Panama, governments are boosting aid to fight the disease and keep workers from migrating to cities or north toward the United States.