A state agricultural advisory committee has recommended an emergency quarantine on the Big Island to prevent the spread of a beetle that could severely damage Hawaii’s $27-million coffee-farming industry.
The Board of Agriculture is scheduled to meet at 8 a.m. Tuesday at the plant quarantine office, 1849 Auiki St., to consider the measure.
The Advisory Committee on Plants and Animals yesterday recommended a quarantine for a year on all coffee plants and unroasted beans in areas of Kona and Kau, unless farmers follow various procedures to reduce the spread of the coffee berry borer.
The committee did not specify methods that might be used to kill the beetle and its larvae. The Kona Coffee Farmers Association favors organic approaches, in part because of fears of a consumer backlash to chemicals.
Various methods to eliminate the beetle, including moisture reduction and heat and chemical treatments, were discussed during yesterday’s public meeting, with the final list to be determined later.
A statewide survey found the coffee berry borer, Hypothenemus hampei, present at 21 sites in Kona and Kau as of Monday.
No other island was found to have the pest.
Farmers in those areas will be required to have their products undergo a method of eliminating the beetles before coffee plants, parts of plants, unroasted beans or related equipment can be transported elsewhere, including uncontaminated parts of the Big Island.
State officials said a decision on the methods of treatment could be decided after further research and discussion.
Lyle Wong, the head of the state Plant and Quarantine Division, said he was pleased with the committee’s decision in light of beetle’s potential damage to the coffee industry in Hawaii, including Oahu, Molokai, Maui and Kauai.
"We have now the worst pest in the coffee industry … We need to stop the transportation of high-risk items," he said.
Michael Conway, agricultural operations manager for Dole Food Hawaii, said his firm’s 150-acre coffee farm on Oahu’s North Shore could be "out of business" if the coffee berry borer spreads to its farm.
"We will be impacted significantly," he said.
James Wayman, president of the Hawaii Coffee Co., said he is in favor of the quarantine, although treating the coffee will add to his firm’s costs.
Wayman said he’s noticed about 25 percent of the Kona farmers have bags of unroasted coffee containing the coffee berry borer.
Wayman, whose firm produces Lion Coffee and Royal Kona Coffee, said that without a quarantine and preventative measures, the amount of infested coffee beans could climb significantly.