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Honduran coffee growers flag risk from new roya strain

TEGUCIGALPA, April 4 (Reuters) - A new outbreak of the destructive leaf fungus known as roya could damage the next Honduran coffee harvest if preventative measures are not taken against it quickly, leading national coffee industry associations said on Tuesday.

Coffee growers recently detected the new roya strain in the IHCAFE-90 and Parainema seed varieties, which together with the Lempira were sown in 65 percent of the country to resist the fungus that has hit recent harvests, the industry said.

Roya had already been detected in Lempira.

"If they don't take urgent action, the damage could be incalculable. This is a more virulent and lethal strain for coffee plants than the ones previously in the country," said Asterio Reyes, president of coffee growers' group AHPROCAFE.

Coffee industry officials do not believe the new outbreak will damage the 2016/2017 harvest. But they are worried it could do so the following season as agricultural workers spread the fungus from infected plantations to other areas.

The coffee season runs from October through September.

Dagoberto Suazo, vice president of the board of the Honduran national coffee institute (IHCAFE), said if the outbreak was not controlled it could cause a worse crisis than the 2012 infestation that had a lasting impact on the harvest.

AHPROCAFE said the fungus has attacked plantations in eight of the 15 departments where coffee is grown in Honduras, but does not have an estimate for the number of hectares affected.

Honduras has forecast 7.2 million 60-kg bags of coffee will be exported in the 2016/17 harvest as the trade continues to recover from the effects of the previous roya outbreak. (Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)