Coffee Berry Borer Discovered in Kona

Established on the lush, and volcanic western slopes of the Big Island, Coffee Times owner, Les Drent, roasted, and sold his first pound of Kona coffee in 1993. Five years later, Les moved his Coffee Times roasting operation to the beautiful island of Kauai, and established the Blair Estate shade grown, organic coffee farm in 2001. While his passion for farming is now deeply rooted in the Kauai soil, he continues to be a strong proponent for the preservation of 100% Kona coffee. Marta Lane lives on Kauai and authors the Coffee Times blog.


November 30, 2010

Eric Erbe, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org

The Coffee Berry Borer or CBB has been found in Kona Country. This small beetle, about the size of a sesame seed, can cause serious problems for the Kona Coffee industry. Boring its way into a coffee berry, the female lays it’s eggs and the larvae feed on it’s contents, destroying the berry.

On September 2nd, the identification of CBB was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture entomology laboratory in Riverdale, MD. Currently, the Coffee Berry Borer is only on the Westside of the Big Island at a handful of farms but the prolific pest can quickly take over. LBD Coffee, located in the mountains of Kauai, is safe from this crop devastating pest for now.

Kona Coffee is a 30 to 50 million dollar industry for the state of Hawaii and the CBB has the potential to destroy 20% of a farmer’s crop. Understandably, coffee farmers are concerned for their livelihood.

With 500 coffee farmers on the Big Island of Hawaii, 150 met with Big Island Legislators and Department of Agriculture officials on September 13th to discuss the problem.

The coffee farmers, in fear of not only crop devastation but world embargo and quarantine were outraged and the discussion quickly became heated. Farmers were mistrustful of the government based on past grievances and wanted to know how the government was going to protect them and the industry.

Calmly and assuredly the officials gave their recommendations on how to minimize the problem; make sure coffee bushes are pruned to create adequate air flow, reduce heavy shade, avoid ripe cherries falling to the ground and gather ones that have.

One farmer suggested a department be developed to discover biological mechanisms for insect and disease control as the government recommendations are not practical for large scale farming.

In a statement, Sandra Lee Kunimoto, chairwoman of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture, said “This is terrible news for our important coffee industry. Staff from the department and the University of Hawaii have already begun to investigate various control methods, including biological control, which involves finding natural enemies of this beetle.”

Blair Estate coffee cherries.

Unlike LBD Coffee, some farmers use pesticides on their crops. Since the CBB bores into the berry, pesticides are virtually useless. Forcing farmers to go organic by using biological control, natural enemies such as the wasp and a fungus feed on eggs and larvae. It’s doesn’t save the berry but it stops the CBB from spreading.

Another source of contention is that there are no funds in the system for a Kona extension agent. H.C. Skip Bittenbender, PhD, UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources said the job has been eliminated. The farmers, having enough of the rhetoric, suggested earmarking inspection money for Kona Coffee instead of directing the money into general funds.

At one point, Lyle Wong, PhD, Hawaii State Department of Agriculture, admitted they don’t know much about the beetle, how wide spread it is, or exactly how to control it.

On the surface the government seems proactive, having identified the beetle and implementing a plan within weeks but impractical modes of control, inexperience in this area and insufficient government funding left the farmers wanting.

Kona coffee farmer Bill Smith says “There is really no solution. The solution is we’re going to have to live with it.” Sadly, this may be the case for now.

We here at LBD Coffee will continue to insure our organic crops are yielding high quality coffee for your consumption. We agree that our government should be protecting the Kona coffee industry and it’s reputation for superior coffee. Not only by focusing on developing security and sustainability for the Kona coffee industry but investigating the very real issue of fraudulent labeling practices that are running rampant on the mainland.

Coffee Berry Borer Update:

Keeping abreast of the CBB infestation, Coffee Times is posting information from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and KonaCoffeeRoasting.com

Source: Hawaii Department of Agriculture

PLANT QUARANTINE INTERIM RULE

Updated: November 30, 2010

A Plant Quarantine Interim Rule will go into effect on December 2, 2010 that establishes two quarantine zones on Hawai`i Island that restricts the movement of coffee plants, plant parts, unroasted seeds (green beans), and bags to prevent and slow the spread of the Coffee Berry Borer (CBB) to the rest of the state.

To view the Interim Rule, click here.

The interim rule was approved by the Hawai`i Board of Agriculture on November 23, 2010.

The interim rule establishes two quarantine zones, which includes a primary quarantine zone for the areas on Hawai`i Island that are infested with CBB (which is currently the area of South Kona from Kaloko to Manuka State Park.) A secondary quarantine zone will encompass the entire Island of Hawai`i, excluding the primary quarantine zone. HDOA has approved several treatment and mitigation methods that would allow for the transport of unroasted seed (green coffee beans) from the quarantine zones to other islands. These treatment and mitigation methods include fumigation and also heat treatment and other methods that are acceptable for reducing the risk of spreading CBB in organic coffee beans.

Coffee growers with questions regarding the new rules may contact the Plant Quarantine Branch on O`ahu at (808) 832-0566

To view the agenda for HBOA meeting, click here.

To view the department submittal to the HBOA, click here.

To view the attachments to the submittal, click here.

For more on this subject, read this informative article: Controversy Brewing Over Kona Coffee Quarantine

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