The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) is investigating the source of coffee plants found at a Home Depot on Kauai earlier this week. Coffee plants from islands infested with the coffee berry borer (CBB) are restricted from being transported to uninfested islands, such as Kauai. Hawaii Island, Oahu and Maui have established populations of CBB.
Eight coffee plants were found at the Kauai store by HDOA Plant Pest Control specialists conducting pest surveillance on Monday. Since then, HDOA personnel have been working to determine where the plants came from and, at this point, it appears that the plants were transported from Oahu. Coffee berries on those plants have been examined by HDOA entomologists in Honolulu and no CBB have been found. Those plants have been quarantined and will be destroyed as a precaution. HDOA has asked the retailer to provide information on recent plant shipments. Also as a precaution, anyone who purchased coffee plants from that store is encouraged to contact HDOA on Kauai at (808) 241-7132 or the State’s toll-free Pest Hotline at 643-PEST (7378).
“The department is taking this matter very seriously and is working with the store and nurseries to determine the exact source of the coffee plants,” Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture, said while attending a conference on the Mainland.
One of the most devastating coffee pests, CBB was first detected in the state in Sept. 2010 in Kona and discovered in Ka`u in May 2011. In Dec. 2014, it was discovered on Oahu and was reported on Maui in Dec. 2016.
This small beetle bores into the coffee “cherry” to lay its eggs. The larvae feed on the coffee bean, reducing the yield and quality of the bean. Since its detection in Kona, Big Island coffee growers have developed methods to manage the pest, which include using an organic pesticide and field sanitation. Some farms with good management practices have been able to keep infestations down and minimizing yield loss to about five percent of the average coffee crop yield.
CBB is native to Central Africa and is also found in many coffee-growing regions of the world, including Central and South America. It is still unknown how CBB made its way to Hawaii Island and how it got to Oahu and Maui.
Hawaii has strict importation rules that require fumigation of all green coffee beans imported into the state to rid the beans of pathogens and insect pests. Coffee plants and plant parts are also restricted from being imported into Hawaii under Plant Quarantine rules.
After the discovery of CBB in Hawaii, HDOA issued a quarantine order that requires certain treatments and inspection by HDOA Plant Quarantine inspectors prior to shipping interisland. Inspectors will either attach a tag, label or stamp to indicate the shipment passed inspection requirements. For unroasted coffee beans, acceptable treatment protocols include fumigation, freezing and heat treatment.