Lack of rain, invasive pest take toll

by Carolyn Lucas-Zenk
Stephens Media

A destructive insect and two-year drought didn’t affect the quality of Kona coffee, but did cut yield during the 2010-11 season.

Bruce Corker, Kona Coffee Farmers Association board member, said the size of his coffee crop at his 3.8 acre farm, Rancho Aloha in Holualoa, fell approximately 25 percent due to the drought, considered the most intense in Hawaii since the 1999 inception of the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Colehour Bondera, association president, agreed. While the coffee borer beetle and the drought probably reduced the coffee crop, Bondera did not think they caused “ridiculously horrible, dramatic variations.”
Bondera suspects dry conditions did the most harm to farms at lower elevations and farther south, where the drought was stronger and longer. On the other hand, less water helped Bondera’s Kanalani Ohana Farm produce better beans. He said his Honaunau farm had “the best yield ever in 10 years,” and he was not alone in this trend.

Bondera also knows the beetle has proved disastrous for other Kona coffee farmers like Jason Sitith, who reported losing as much as 75 to 80 percent of his usual crop. But what “disturbs” Bondera the most is the coffee prices.

Food sustainability: a Kona-vore’s dilemma

by Diana Duff
Special To West Hawaii Today

Those of us in attendance at the November Kona Town Meeting on food sustainability were not surprised to see Ken Love as one of the speakers. A vigilant supporter of “buying local” and a long-time champion of growing exotic fruit for local consumption, his low blood pressure was obviously raised as he talked about the charade he finds in some local stores. Sellers anxious to join the “buy local” campaign are sometimes stretching the limits and confusing consumers who really want to eat food grown as close to home as possible.

Ken’s main prop was a box of “Hawaii Ginger” with “Produce of China” in smaller type on the same box. “So, is this local produce?” he asked. A resounding “no” echoed through the Makaeo Events Pavilion.

Ken advised those present to look for the COOL, or Country of Origin Label, stickers on produce. These can help you choose fruit and vegetables grown in locations that match your buying preferences. If you don’t see the stickers, ask for them.

Research shows that consumers often prefer locally grown produce, but they can be confused if produce is labeled incorrectly or not at all. Shoppers looking for local products are often deceived by misleading signage. Locally grown crops need to be marked clearly and correctly. “Hawaii Grown” stickers could really help.

Kona coffee beans, plants quarantined over pest

KAILUA-KONA (AP) – Coffee plants and unroasted beans from Hawaii’s Big Island are being quarantined in hopes of preventing the spread of a crop-destroying pest from Kona farms to other islands.

The Hawaii Board of Agriculture unanimously approved the emergency quarantine Tuesday due to the coffee berry borer, which has been found in 21 West Hawaii farms but hasn’t been seen on other islands.

The quarantine restricts the movement of coffee plants, plant parts, green beans and bags unless the items are treated with pesticides or heating methods to kill the beetle and its larvae, according to the Department of Agriculture.

”Movement of green beans is restricted unless it’s fumigated,” said Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Janelle Saneishi.

The beetle was first detected in West Hawaii-grown coffee beans in mid-September. Agriculture officials haven’t yet determined how it arrived on the Big Island.

The quarantine could last up to a year. It doesn’t apply to farmers who are sending green beans out of state.

Columnist home after volunteer coffee, bamboo projects in Haiti

Just returning home from Farmer to Farmer coffee and bamboo projects in Haiti, I have never been more acutely aware of how blessed we are here.

Of course most folks know that Haiti is a poor country, but the news is misleading. Yes, the capitol of Port au Prince was devastated by the January earthquake, but folks who live in rural areas were not as affected. Voltaire Moise and I traveled from north to south and found life much as it had been for decades in the countryside.

The land is rich, plus Haitians are hard-working and self-sufficient. Lack of medical help, schools and good roads makes life difficult, but not impossible.

The city, on the other hand, was literally destroyed.

There were more than half a million people killed and over a million are now living in cardboard and tarp structures until homes and buildings can be rebuilt.

As we left Haiti, an outbreak of cholera had affected thousands and as I write this, Hurricane Tomas is forecast to hit Haiti with 100 mph winds! Folks in the makeshift tents have nowhere to protect themselves. It is heartbreaking! If you want to help, you can make financial donations to the Farmer to Farmer Program of Partners of the Americas. The contact person is Megan Olivier, program director, 1424 K Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20005. The funds will reach Benito Jasmin, Haiti country coordinator of the program. For as little as $50, you can keep a child clothed, fed and in school for one month.

Berry borer backlash

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.

Heroes of Agriculture, Food and Environment

Some 14 Hawaii Island farmers, ranchers, food purveyors and ag entrepreneurs were among the “Heroes of Agriculture, Food and Environment” honored at the Hawaii Agriculture Conference held Sept. 23-24 at Ko’Olina, Oahu.

Ag conference organizers began polling the agriculture community in August, seeking nominations in seven categories. A review team then selects the winners based on the write-ups submitted.

“We were looking for the behind-the-scene heroes, the humble leaders,” said Kim Coffee-Isaak, executive director of the Agricultural Leadership Foundation of Hawaii.

The 2010 Heroes of Agriculture, Food and the Environment are:

Ag officials: Kona coffee facing quarantine

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.

War on coffee pest begins this week

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.


The H-2A program allows agricultural employers to bring in foreign workers when there is a shortage of U.S. workers.

2008 | H-2A approved

» Bay View Farms: 10
» Bird Feather Hawaii: 25
» Captain Cook Honey: 2
» Hawaiian Queen Co.: 4
» Haleakala Ranch Co.: 1
» Kapapala Ranch: 1
» Kona Cold Lobsters: 8
» Kona Coffee Grounds : 36
» Larry Jefts Farms: 48
» Rincon Family Farms: 2
Total: 137

2008 | Rejected
» Bird Feather Hawaii : 10
» Precy Nazaire/Hawaii Agricultural Labor Services: 50
» Takenaka Nursery: 5

2009 | H2-A approved

» Bird FeatherHawaii: 18
» Captain Cook Honey: 2
» Global Ag Labor: 48
» Haleakala Ranch: 1
» Hawaiian Queen Co.: 6
» Kapapala Ranch: 2
» Kona Coffee Grounds: 28
» Kona Queen Hawaii : 5
» Larry Jefts Farms: 40
» Richard T. Watanabe Farm: 1
» Waikele Farms: 80
Total: 231

2009 | Rejected

» Bird Feather Hawaii: 3
» Global Ag Labor: 12
» Greenwell Farms: 12
» Kona Queen Hawaii: 2
» Palehua Ohana Farmers Cooperative: 8

Source: U.S. Department of Labor’s Foreign Labor Certification Data Center