Peru coffee growers clash with police in protests

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 21, 2013 3:17 PM

LIMA (Reuters) - Coffee growers from Peru's central jungle clashed with police on Wednesday as they demanded more government help in grappling with the roya fungus that has eaten up their crops and earnings this year.

At least 1,000 farmers protested in Chanchamayo for the second day in a row, said producer Cesar Rivas by telephone from the coffee-growing province.

Local television showed police beating protesters who had blocked a key highway to Lima. At least 15 people were arrested and one officer was wounded by a spear on Wednesday, RPP radio reported.

Demonstrations were held in other parts of central Peru, which has been hit hard by the roya fungus in part because of unusually wet weather conditions.

The unrest comes as coffee farmers in Colombia struggling with low prices finished similar protests.

Peru is one of the world's top 10 growers and has carved a niche in organic and specialty coffees, which are particularly sensitive to the roya fungus.

The government has forecast a 30 percent drop in coffee production this year because of the roya.

Rivas, a member of Peru's main coffee association which is not supporting the protesters because it is in talks with the government, said production would probably not be affected further because Peru's harvest is nearly complete.

Protest leaders have asked for government loans so they can replant and pay off their debts. The government has already committed 250 million soles ($88.5 million) in aid to help producers cope with the fungus.

($1 = 2.82 Peru nuevo sol)

(Reporting by Mitra Taj; editing by Matthew Lewis)