Coffee Berry Borer in Hilo

Coffee Berry Borer in Hilo
Big Island Video News

A small coffee berry borer emerges from a coffee cherry in the hands of a Kona farmer. (courtesy Hawaii County, 2010)

A small coffee berry borer emerges from a coffee cherry in the hands of a Kona farmer. (courtesy Hawaii County, 2010)

HILO, Hawaii – Bad news for coffee growers in East Hawaii.

The invasive coffee berry borer (CBB) that has devastated Kona coffee farms since its discovery a few years ago has made its way to Hilo. State and university officials have confirmed the beetle has been found on an Amauulu farm.

Although Hilo does not have the worldwide reputation that Kona has for its coffee, it has historically been a viable growing region which recently seemed poised for a comeback. Now, the re-emerging East Hawaii coffee industry faces a new – if not unforeseeable – threat.

The spread of the CBB around the Big Island has been fast. Before the beetle’s arrival, Kona had established itself as region of gourmet coffee on Hawaii Island, while the Ka’u district had made an international name for itself winning big in mainland competitions. But in September 2010, disaster arrived on the island in the form of the invasive coffee berry borer. It was first found in Kona. This small, dark brown beetle no larger than a sesame seed already had a worldwide reputation. Native to Africa, its impact has been felt on the global coffee commodity. The female CBB ruins coffee quality and yield when she burrows into the cherry and lives out its life cycle within the bean. The process renders the coffee worthless.

A coffee quarantine was put into place. Farmers worked hard to come up with a viable solution. By 2011, Kona was facing a dire situation. Unattended, wild coffee was helping the beetle spread through Kona at an alarming rate. South Kona was particularly hard hit.

But there was hope. Farmers won approval from the State Department of Agriculture to import and use a special fungus to control the CBB. By this time, the coffee berry borer had migrated all the way to Pahala in Ka’u, putting a damper on the up and coming Ka’u coffee region.

By the end of the year the verdict was in: the CBB had definite impact on the quality of the coffee crop, according to coffee processors.

Now, as Kona and Ka’u continued their struggle with the CBB, the pest has been found on a coffee farm in Hilo, reigniting concerns over the spread of the beetle.


  • Bernard Vermeulen

    This problem with coffee (CBB) is similar to the problems Banana growers had with ‘Bunchy Top’ and Papaya growers had with ‘Papaya Ringspot’. The key to solving this problem is management and control. The problem is all the ‘wild coffee’ and poorly managed coffee farms that do not attempt to control the spread of the CBB. The first step in solving this problem is to destroy all the wild coffee that is allowing the beetle (CBB) to reproduce and keep spreading to neighboring farms. KSBE leased lands have a lot of these wild coffee growing and they need to be part of this discussion and be more active on how best to address this major problem. Destroying the infected Banana’s and Papaya’s was not popular back then, and neither will it be for coffee, but it must be done or else the problem will continue to persist and become cost- prohibitive to control the CBB making coffee unprofitable.


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