Importation laws in the United States are strict when it comes to agricultural products. The danger of importing pest along with the product lies in the potential contamination of crops. Just like any other tree and bush, coffee plants have parasites that affect their growth and the quality of their fruits. Prior to importation, raw coffee is inspected, and fumigated if required. Let’s take a look at coffee pests, how they affect the coffee trade, and the case of Hawaii which is setting the bar in these issues.
Coffee plant enemies
There are mainly two kinds of parasites that are a nuisance to coffee crops. The first one is usually called Broca, which is the Spanish name for Coffee Berry Borer. This tiny black beetle drills holes into the coffee cherries and their seeds which are supposed to become the coffee beans. They end up looking like Swiss cheese full of white larvae.
The other problem best known to coffee farmers – found in all growing regions of the world except Hawaii – is called Coffee Leaf Rust and is caused by a fungus that makes leaves look like an old rusty car. Yellow-brown spots form on the green leaves and less and less cells are left for the photosynthesis process to take place. The plant ends up losing those leaves, and its growth can be significantly impaired by this premature defoliation.
How dangerous is it to introduce these nasties in coffee producing lands?
Actually, the world-renowned tea-growing region of Ceylon was a coffee-only agricultural area in the 1840s. It was wiped out entirely by Coffee Leaf Rust within 15 years of the disease being introduced in Ceylon. In order for the local economy to survive, tea culture was introduced and fully replaced the dead plantations.
In general, Broca causes around 14% loss in Central America every year, and losses due to leaf rust over the world is usually 15% – 20%. Hawaii being the only state in the world where leaf rust hasn’t yet struck, it is understandable that their import laws are extremely strict in order to keep it that way, since they grow one of the most renowned coffee in the world.
Hawaii says no to untreated coffee bean importation
Hawaii is a “clean” state, and its production is free of those two undesirable problems. Hence, coffee being exported outside of it never needs to be fumigated.
On the other hand, all green coffee that comes into Hawaiian Islands, even for personal home roasting use, must previously be treated to eliminate all possible chances of spreading diseases, in addition to which other pests may find their way inside the bags and containers, such as moths and rodents: even more reasons to fumigate raw beans before letting them in.
The next article will address fumigation of coffee as an efficient way to eliminate pest.