Kona Farms Fight the Berry Borer

According to Erin Miller writing in West Hawaii Today, Hawaii’s battle with the coffee berry borer is far from over. After being found in 21 West Hawaii farms, a quarantine has been issued in an attempt to contain the insect and prevent its spread to other Hawaiian islands.

The pest made its mysterious appearance in mid-September. It’s a mystery at this point in regard how it found its way to the big island. Affected by the quarantine are the movements of coffee plants and parts, green beans and bags, unless they are treated with pesticides or heating methods so that the beetle with its larvae are killed. This quarantine could last as much as a year. If more than a year, such a permanent quarantine would require formal public hearings.

Despite the quarantine and the fumigation requirement, the Agriculture department did make allowance for the organic farmers. In lieu of the pesticide, they must take extensive precautions, such as double-bagging the beans, making sure the moisture content is low, and stipulating that bags be opened in a room that is contained.

The coffee berry borer is very difficult to eradicate and the best that can be done is contain it. Other locations such as Haiti and Columbia have been doing that for years, keeping the plants clean and burning or sun-baking the infected beans so that infestation doesn’t spread.

This is, of course, unwelcome news from the Kona coffee front. The situation is complicated by the politics involved, with complaints expressed by farmers against the state government’s procedures. This is another story however. For now, the farmers are still receiving the regular prices, and it is the end user who will pay a little more than last year. With Kona coffee’s niche secured and the demand steady, the feeling is that the price increase won’t affect sales. With that increase in mind, now might be a good time to order some Kona, before the price goes up.

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