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In 2013, I was very fortunate to get published in Roast Magazine. David Cook, owner of the Fire Roasted Coffee Company, and I traveled to Hawaii and saw firsthand just how much the borer beetle was devastating and impacting coffee growing on Hawaii’s Big Island.
When we returned home, Roast Magazine agreed to let us tell the story of what we saw, and how it could affect the coffee world.
I was recently approached by Terri Moats of the University of Hawaii Kauai Agricultural Research Center. Terri had read my article in Roast Magazine, and asked me to keep up awareness of the problem. Terri reiterated that Coffee Berry Borer (CBB) is a serious threat to Hawaii’s coffee farms. The University of Hawaii CTAHR (College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources) have a project to educate visitors and local residents about the importance of “clean visits” when touring Big Island and Oahu coffee farms.
Terri asked me to publish the following letter by CTAHR entomologist, Dr. Russell Messing, which was recently printed in West Hawaii Today newspaper.
Help protect Hawaii coffee
Kona coffee is world-renowned. Local farmers have rightfully earned an outstanding reputation for producing a top quality product. This helps attract thousands of tourists annually; farm tours (in addition to wholesale and retail coffee sales) all contribute substantially to west Hawaii’s economy.
It is less well known that more than half the coffee acreage in the state is grown on other islands (Kauai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu). Big Island growers work hard to manage the damaging invasive beetle called the coffee berry borer (CBB). So far Kauai, Maui and Molokai remain free from this pest, while CBB was recently found on a single farm on Oahu.
Visiting tourists are naturally curious to see how coffee is grown, and often stop to take photos and touch, smell, and sometimes pick coffee berries from the tree. A casually picked coffee berry may harbor (unseen) tiny beetles inside its seeds – if the berry or even a single seed is deliberately or inadvertently carried away, the CBB infestation can spread. A short plane ride could place these pests in close proximity to CBB-free coffee farms (beetles can live happily inside seeds for months at a time). Most entomologists agree that this is the manner by which CBB will eventually reach the other islands.
We all want visitors to enjoy their farm tours, and to appreciate the fine coffee that is grown in the Islands. But, please, try to dissuade visitors from touching, handling or picking coffee berries in the field. Help protect coffee farms on the other islands from this damaging invasive species.