By Howard Dicus
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State agriculture officials are now ready to consider quarantine areas to try to stop the coffee bean borer from spreading from Kona to other Hawaii coffee districts.
A state advisory committee has called a public hearing for next week to review the idea of setting up "one or more quarantine zones" and require fumigation of green coffee that is to have shipped out of a quarantine area.
The coffee bean borer is a tiny bug that lives inside the coffee bean. It cannot live without moisture and does not survive in dried or roasted beans. It can, however, survive in beans that fall to the ground, on worker clothing or in machinery.
"The coffee industry in Hawaii has a history spanning 200 years, and we don't want to see it collapse because of our inattention to contain or eradicate the coffee berry borer infestation," said state Rep. Clift Tsuji of the Big Island.
No one has eradicated the borer anywhere, but it can be greatly controlled through careful attention to reducing humidity on coffee trees by pruning for more air flow, and by picking up beans that fall to the ground.
The borer, which does an estimate $500 million in damage to the $90 billion a year global coffee industry, was not found in Hawaii until this year, when inspectors have found infestations in 21 of 65 inspected sites.
The Hawaii Department of Agriculture clarified Monday evening that the proposed quarantine restriction does not involve coffee imports, which are already fumigated, but rather would set up a fumigation requirement for local green coffee shipped from quarantine.
"Moving green coffee beans and coffee bags from, say, Kona to Oahu, would require fumigation - just as is required for coffee coming from South America to Hawaii," explained HDOA spokeswoman Janelle Saneishi.
The confirmed sightings of the borer are so far all in Kona district except for one park in neighboring Ka'u District, and the borer has not been found on any Ka'u coffee farms.
The public hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 17, at the Plant Quarantine Station, 1849 Auiki St. on Sand Island. Written testimony may also be faxed to 808-832-0584 or emailed to Carol.L.Okada@hawaii.gov .
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