Pest poses threat to Kona Coffee farmers in Hawaii

November 15, 2010, 12:45 PM HST · Updated November 15, 12:55 PM
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The state department of agriculture will hold a committee meeting this week to discuss the Kona Coffee Berry Borer.  The pest has been confirmed on 21 of the 65 sites surveyed statewide, all located in the Kona area of the Big Island.

The infested area stretches from mile marker 29 on the Mamalahoa Highway, and mile marker 93 on the Queen Kaahumanu Highway, south to mile marker 62 of Highway 11, east of Naalehu.  In addition to the infested zone, the DOA has reports from about 100 individual farms that may be infested.

Coffee Berry Borer. Images Couresy Hawaii State Department of Agriculture.

The coffee berry borer lays its eggs in the coffee cherry, and as the eggs develop into larva, the larva feed inside the coffee bean.  The bean may be further damaged by secondary fungal, bacterial and insect infestation, resulting in reduced yield, lower quality, and destruction of the entire bean.

The group will meet at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 17th at the Plant Quarantine Station Conference Room at Sand Island, located at 1849 Auiki Street.  Discussion will focus on consideration of quarantine controls on the importation of green coffee beans.

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There are currently no chemical insecticides available in Hawaii that can effectively control the coffee berry borer.  While it is difficult to contain, the dissemination of the contamination can be slowed for many years through improved pest management practices.

Researchers estimate that the damage caused by the coffee berry borer worldwide is about $500 million per year.  The Kona area of the Big Island has produced coffee since the early 1800’s and supports nearly 600 independent farms.  Here on Maui, there are a total of 500 aces of coffee planted on converted sugar can lands with several small coffee farms spanning from Kaanapali, the slopes of Haleakala, and an organic farm in Hana.  To date, Maui has not been affected.

The Plant Quarantine Branch has requested the adoption of an interim rule to prohibit the movement of coffee plants, plant parts, un-roasted seeds, and used coffee bags out of a quarantine zone in the Kona area, except by permit.  Violators under the proposed rule would be guilty of a misdemeanor offense, and fined not less than $100.  The maximum fine would be set at $10,000.  The interim rule is proposed for implementation for one full year.

(Posed by Wendy Osher, supporting information courtesy Hawaii House of Representatives)

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