58 Arrested in coffee growers' protests in Peru

Lima, Aug 22 (EFE).- Violent protests by coffee growers demanding government help in dealing with a crop blight resulted in police arresting 58 people and an undetermined number of people being injured, Peruvian media said.

Hundreds of coffee growers clashed with police during a march along Peru's Central Highway to demand that the government allocate more resources to combat the coffee rust fungus.

The Central Highway was cleared by police, while the coffee growers' leaders reiterated their demand for a government response to the serious economic losses the fungus has caused.

The demonstrators belong to the Central Jungle Coffee Growers Confederation, which is asking for loans to allow them to replant on the plantations ruined by the coffee rust fungus and to refinance their debts.

The group on Tuesday declared itself to be on an openended strike and set off on a march from the city of La Merced, in the jungle in Junin region, en route for Lima.

Agriculture Minister Milton von Hesse said that so far 250 million soles ($89 million) has been allocated to attend to the problems that have arisen this year from the disease affecting the coffee crop.

The government in May decreed an emergency in the coffee sector and developed a plan to distribute fertilizers among the growers affected by the fungus.

The president of the National Coffee Board, which represents 170,000 families, Anner Roman, two months ago estimated that the blight threatened to cause the loss of 2 million quintals (220,458 tons) of coffee, or 25 percent of the annual harvest.