Next Kona coffee harvest will be bigger; borer still a threat

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU and WAIKOLOA (HawaiiNewsNow) - The 2010-2011 Kona coffee harvest was smaller than the year before, mostly because of drought but partly because of damage from the coffee bean borer.

"We were down about 40 percent, and the coffee bean borer did about 10 percent of that," says Tom Greenwell of Greenwell Farms. "This year's rain is good so far. We may lose the last flowering due to cloud cover. But the coffee bean borer could do twice as much damage this time, even though we're all fighting it."

The coffee tree is a fruit tree, and like other fruit trees it typically has several flowering cycles a year, each one producing fruit, which on a coffee tree is called a cherry. What on a real cherry would be called the pit is the coffee bean. Rainfall, not just how much but when, determines how many flowerings, which in turn can affect both the length and the size of the harvest.

Greenwell, who president of the Hawaii Coffee Association, was one of several growers to provide detailed reports on the last crop and the coming harvest at the association's annual meeting last weekend at Hilton Waikoloa Village. Growers on Molokai, Maui, Oahu and Kauai said they love visitors but fear the spread of the borer to their islands.

Next-door to Kona district at the bottom of the Big Island is Ka'u district, where 50 farmers working 500 acres have developed a new Hawaiian coffee industry that has won some national awards. Lori Obra of Rusty's Hawaiian Coffee beamed as she accepted the grand prize from this year's Hawaii coffee cupping competition.

Chris Manfredi, representing the Ka'u farmers, reported that when the coffee bean borer spread to their region the farmers all chipped in to take an aggressive approach, stripping beans from the ground and burning them in pits. "I like knowing they're dead," Manfredi it. "People say they're scared of the coffee bean borer. I say the coffee bean borer should be scared of us."

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