KAILUA-KONA – A beetle smaller than a sesame seed is boring its way into Kona coffee beans and threatening the nation’s only coffee-growing region’s premier crop.
More than 600 farmers in North Kona and South Kona, on the west side of the Big Island, are preparing to coat their fields with a suffocating fungus and are taking other measures to save their livelihoods and protect the world famous Kona coffee brand. While they’re confident they can limit the damage, they acknowledge they face a long fight against a beetle that will almost certainly reduce harvests and force costly chemical treatments and other work.
”It definitely has made growing Kona coffee more challenging,” said Tommy Greenwell, owner of Greenwell Farms. ”Once the beetle bores into the coffee cherry, it digs out a home and lays its eggs. That bean is no longer useable in coffee products. ”
The beetle, a bug known as Hypothenemus hampei that is native to Africa, was formally identified in Hawaii in September, but farmers have reported spotting it for two years. No one knows how it arrived in Hawaii, but growers said they’re not surprised because it’s seen in other coffee-growing regions throughout the world.
”There are 101 theories about how it got here. All we know is it got here from another country and it’s a very, very good hitchhiker