by Carolyn Lucas-Zenk
An immediate suspension of green coffee imports into Hawaii to prevent further damage by the coffee berry borer is being sought by the Kona Coffee Farmers Association.
Hawaii Department of Agriculture officials also are preparing a quarantine on green coffee bean transportation from Kona, where the pest was confirmed at 21 sites between Kaloko and Manuka State Park, said Neil Reimer, Hawaii Plant Pest Control Branch chief.
The Advisory Committee on Plants and Animals may consider the quarantine request at a meeting later this month. However, the seven-member committee was struggling to establish a quorum and Lyle Wong, Plant Industry Division administrator, is in China, Reimer said.
If the pest is deemed an “immediate emergency” and the committee passes the recommendation, it will go before the Board of Agriculture for approval and implementation. The 10-member board usually meets the last Tuesday of the month in Honolulu, Reimer said.
A search Wednesday of the Department of Agriculture’s online calendars showed no meetings scheduled in November and December for the Advisory Committee on Plants and Animals or the Board of Agriculture.
The Kona Coffee Farmers Association is pushing for the state Department of Agriculture to suspend imports of green coffee beans into Hawaii in a move the association said will prevent further crop destruction by the coffee berry borer beetle.
The trade group publicized its wish yesterday following a resolution passed by members two weeks ago.
A technical advisory board to the Agriculture Department may consider the request at a meeting later this month. However, the Agriculture Department has doubts about whether the coffee borer got to Hawaii in green bean imports. The agency along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture is studying the issue.
The agency also is considering whether to prohibit transporting green, or unroasted, beans between islands. Another pursuit calls for seeking biological control methods including finding natural enemies of the tiny bug threatening one of Hawaii’s biggest crops.
Hawaii had been one of only two places in the world free of the borer, Hypothenemus hampei, which is a beetle that’s a bit smaller than a sesame seed and is native to Central Africa.
The devastating pest’s presence is believed to be limited to South Kona, and it may have been present for several years. The beetle’s existence in Kona was reported and confirmed in September.
After 30 years of protecting native animals and plants, the head of Hawaii’s agricultural inspection operation leaves behind a short-handed and beleaguered team today, worried that invading species are slipping into the islands.
“Shipments are backed up but are still being inspected. That’s the good part,” said Domingo Cravalho Jr., who is retiring as inspection and compliance section chief for the state Department of Agriculture. “Because of the lack of resources and lack of inspectors and the reduction in the amount of good inspections, things are getting through. …
“It’s overwhelming at times and some individuals may be overlooking things or bypassing things. Under the circumstances, we just don’t have enough eyes and ears out there.”
In response to the threat posed by the coffee berry borer, state agriculture officials are preparing to establish a quarantine on the transport of green coffee beans from South Kona.
The pest’s presence was confirmed Sept. 8. Hawaii was one of the few remaining coffee-producing areas in the world that had not been infested by the bug, which has been known to cut crop production up to 20 percent.
Lyle Wong, plant industry administrator with the state Department of Agriculture, said Friday the Plants and Animals Advisory Committee would meet in a week or so on whether to recommend a quarantine be enacted.
He said a meeting was held Monday, but due to a failure to advertise it six days beforehand, another meeting must be called.
“What went before the advisory board was a proposal for quarantine of the whole Kona coast, but we will have to do it again,” he said.
If the pest is deemed an “immediate emergency” and the committee passes the recommendation, it will go before the Department of Agriculture board for approval and implementation, Wong said.
A quarantine means that green, or non-roasted, coffee beans would have to be treated with heat or an insecticide before they could be shipped off island.
KAILUA-KONA, — Authorities would have to quarantine Big Island coffee beans if state and federal officials don’t find the coffee berry borer pest on other islands in the state.
State Department of Agriculture Plant Industry Division Administrator Lyle Wong says a quarantine would mean growers would have to follow quarantine rules regarding treatment of the beans.
West Hawaii Today reported Wong said Monday growers wouldn’t be prohibited from shipping their beans to other islands.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this month confirmed the pest native to central Africa has been found in several coffee farms in Kona.
The bug has been known to kill off about 20 percent of coffee crops in other parts of the world.
By Howard Dicus
HONOULU and KONA (HawaiiNewsNow) – Hawaii coffee growers are plotting a war on the coffee cherry borer, a pest that poses a serious threat to Hawaiian coffees.
The University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and the state Department of Agriculture flew to Kona for meetings Monday in the heart of the Kona coffee district.
Following a morning meeting with the largest coffee growers and processors who handle almost nine tenths of coffee in the district, a larger meeting was planned in the afternoon at the Kona Historical Society next to Greenwell Farms.
Coffee trees are fruit trees and the fruit is called the cherry. The pit is the coffee bean. Hypothenemus hampei, to use the borer’s Latin name, bores into the coffee cherry and lays eggs. Then the larvae feed on the coffee bean itself.
“This is terrible news for our important coffee industry,” said Sandra Lee Kunimoto, chairman of the state agriculture board.
Kunimoto went public with the problem Wednesday, the same day the identity of the pest was confirmed from samples sent from Hawaii and examined by the USDA lab in Riverdale, MD.
Native to Africa, the coffee cherry borer has been widespread for years in Central America and South America. Kunimoto said it now appears the borer may have been in Kona for a couple years without previously being identified.