Captain Cook, Hawaii – Video by David Corrigan
Farmers of world famous Kona coffee say the severe drought brought on by El Nino is threatening their business.
The local rain data collected by the University of Hawaii (going as far back as 1931) shows that this is the most severe drought in South Kona’s history, comparable only to other El Nino years in the early 1980s and late 1990s. Farmers have observed a disrupted weather pattern on the western side of the island.
According to a news article on the Athena of Hawaii website, run by coffee farmer Joachim Oster, “Konas coffee trees should be covered with flowering white, fragrant buds by now, yet they are either dead, losing their brittle leaves by the bundle, or, at best, are still resting dormant.”
Oster says hundred year old coffee trees, which have well-established, deep roots, suddenly need artificial irrigation to survive. Oster also says that irrigation is also a challenge, as catchment tanks run dry and county water prices are “at a premium”.
In this short video, Oster shows some of the affected trees in the Kona area, above Kealakekua Bay, near Honaunau Valley.
“What does it mean to Kona coffee prices – will they go up because there will not be enough around to cover demands by year end?” asked Oster on his website. “Not necessarily, because last season the large processors didnt buy any coffee parchment at all from the 700 or so small Kona coffee farms; most likely because of the weak economy. Many farms still have plenty of good parchment left therefore.”
As the hope for a profitable season appears to be dwindling for some farmers, at least Oster has found a positive in the negative situation. The unprecedented drought appears to have disrupted the life cycle of the coffee tree damaging Black Twig Borer beetle, which some farmers say can no longer be found in the trees.
Just before the start of 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated Maui County and the Big Island primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused this year by continuing drought.
Joachim Oster markets his 100% Kona coffee under the brands of Blue Horse and Athena of Hawaii.