Imported Coffee-Growing Kits Confiscated

June 30, 2017, 8:41 AM HST · Updated June 30, 8:43 AM
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PC: Courtesy Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture.

About 500 coffee-growing kits imported from the US Mainland are being pulled from shelves at Long’s Drugs stores across the state after the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture was informed that the product was being sold.

Department personnel have accounted for all but 10 kits (including six on Kauaʻi, three on Oʻahu and one in Kona on Hawaiʻi Island).

If individuals have purchased a kit, they should keep it contained and contact HDOA as soon as possible at 643-PEST (7378) statewide, or the Oʻahu Plant Quarantine Branch at (808) 832-0566.

Each coffee-growing kit contained several African coffee seeds, which are prohibited from being imported into the state.

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The agricultural department has a long-standing quarantine which requires that coffee plants and seeds for propagation be held in quarantine for a minimum of one year before being released for planting to help assure that the plants are not carrying any diseases or pests.

Each of the 42 Longs Drugs stores across the state received 12 kits each, which were confiscated upon discovery. The seeds in all the kits will be destroyed by the agriculture department.

Preliminary investigations indicate that one shipment of the kits, which are manufactured by Dunecraft Inc. in Ohio, arrived in Hawaiʻi on June 19, 2017. HDOA is continuing to investigate how the kits were shipped to Hawaiʻi.

The coffee-growing kits were initially discovered by a customer on Kauaʻi on Tuesday, June 27, who saw the kits and knew that coffee plants and seeds were restricted in Hawaiʻi. The customer contacted the University of Hawaiʻi, who then referred the discovery to HDOA’s Plant Pest Control Branch on Kauaʻi on June 28. The Plant Quarantine was then notified and inspectors were dispatched to the retailer where 12 kits were immediately pulled from the shelves.

“The consumer’s action to report this problem shows how the public plays a critical role in helping to protect Hawaiʻi from agricultural and environmental pests,” said Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawaiʻi Board of Agriculture. “The Department relies on the efforts of its many partners in the state, federal and public sector to help address Hawaiʻi’s biosecurity.

Restrictions on coffee import were established to protect Hawaiʻi’s major coffee industry from the introduction of diseases and pests from other areas of the world. The coffee berry borer, which has made its way to parts of Hawaiʻi Island, Oʻahu and recently Maui, is native to Africa where there are other serious pests and diseases such as coffee rust. Due to the lack of a large coffee-growing industry on the US Mainland, national coffee import rules are not as strict as Hawaiʻi’s.

“Even though a coffee seed may look clean on the surface, it may carry microscopic insect eggs, parasites and diseases that could be devastating to Hawaiʻi’s coffee industry,” said Dr. John McHugh, administrator of HDOA’s Plant Industry Division. “The growing kits are a concern because the plants may eventually be planted outdoors and any associated insect pest or disease would be released into the environment. It is fortunate that these kits were discovered quickly.

“We are also very appreciative of the exemplary cooperation from Long’s which has been instrumental in helping us resolve this situation quickly,” McHugh added. “The department relies on positive working relationships with our retailers, dealers and shippers and we are happy that Long’s has been so responsive and responsible.”

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