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Hemileia Vastatrix

"In 1876, the fungus of Hemileia vastatrix attacked the coffee plants. It looked simple at a glance, just a kind of white-fungal stuck in the top of leaf, but it turned out to be a disaste."

The volcanoes spread from the West to the East of Java Island was precious gifts for the people of the island, because it provided an ideal soil for Coffea arabica to produce a high quality coffee with a unique taste profile.

The increasing demand of coffee in the world had made the Dutch use up the land up to the Northern Coast of Java.

Most sites had an average altitude below 1000 above sea level which was not suitable for Coffea arabica. Despite of their inadequacy, the new areas were able to contribute 15% of Java Coffee production and even reach 40% in 1820 (Boomgard 1989: 31).

The exploitation of land use for Coffea arabica in Java took place from the period of Governor General Daendels till Daendels Van den Bosch who introduced Cultuur-stelsel politics.

The new expanded areas were able to produce good-quality products in the beginning but had potential to faced productivity reduction and also triger nematode parasites infestation (Yahmadi 2000:83).

In 1876, the fungus of Hemileia vastatrix attacked the coffee plants. It looked simple at a glance, just a kind of white-fungal stuck in the top of leaf, but it turned out to be a disaster. Fungi was spread out so quickly and led to the death of the most Coffea arabica plantations in Java, especially the plantations in the low altitude (below 1000 above sea level).

Although the Dutch was known as one of the coffee plantation pioneer in the world, they failed to control the attack of Hemileia vastatrix. In 1970, Hemileia vastatrix had even mutated to 32 strains, so the new cultivation of Coffea arabica varieties should still be closely monitored (Yahmadi 2000: 186).

Hemileia vastatrix had caused Java Island potentially lost 120,000 tons export in 1880 that created a big contraction and terrific panic in the world coffee market. (Fernando, ”Java”, pp.162, 163. Simmons’ Spice Mill, June 1913, p. 514. William explains in “The Coffee Crisis in Asia, Africa, and the pacific, 1870-1914” in Clarence-Smith and Topik, Global coffee, pp. 100-119, the complicating additional factors for the decline of Asian production). The same infestation also happended in Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

Hemileia vastatrix made Ceylon lost its potential export of 83, 568 tons of coffee in 1869, or equivalent to about 200 million guilders, or 16,5000,000 pounds (Bandaneire: 1896; Ultee 1929: 5). The world coffee industry observers mentioned that the situation in Java and Ceylon as ‘Declining of Asian production …’ (Talbot 2011: 58-88), which led to the increasing coffee prices in the world coffee market. (Samper and Fernando 2003: 424, Clarence-Smith 2003: 101). This price increase was also a result from the world’s coffee demand, especially a sharp increase in coffee consumption in the America market because of population boom in the 19th century (Topik, 2004).

Brazilian farmers responded to the production failure in Java and Ceylon by growing coffee on a large scale. Within fourteen years later, the number of coffee trees in Sao Paulo was four-fold (Topik, 2003: 35 in Talbot 2011: 75). An it led Brazil to be the biggest exporter of Arabica coffee in the world’s until today.

Eventhough Coffea arabica was introduced to Latin America since the early 18th century, but those countries such as Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Mexico were not considered as the world coffee producers until the end of 18th century. That time was a dark age for coffee production in Asia, especially in Java and Ceylon because of Hemileia vastatrix attack. Coffee production in Asia, especially in Java and Ceylon because of Hemileia vastatrix attack.

In 1876, the Dutch replaced Coffea arabica with a new seed of Coffea canephora var. Liberica that were considered to be more resistant to Hemileia vastatrix attacks (Ultee 1929: 8). However, it was unsuccessful so that it was replaced with a new seed of Coffea conephra var. robusta. The seeds were purchased from I’Hulticulture colonial, Brusell by Mr. Rauws, as many as 150 trees and was shipped to Java an arrived in Tanjung Perak port, Surabaya in 1900. Coffea conephora var. robusta were later known as Robusta coffee and was first cultivated in Sunber Agung plantations, Wringin Anom and Kali Bakar, in East Java (Mawardi 2000: 4, Yahmadi 1976: 160).

The experiment with this Robusta coffee was a success and marked a new era of coffee plantations in Indonesia. The area that used to be one of the sources of Coffea arabica seeds was now developed into a large exporter of robusta coffee to the world’s coffee market.

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http://hdl.handle.net/1887.1/item:788583

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