THE coffee berry borer (CBB) is threatening the multi-million kina coffee industry which more than three million people depend on. The Coffee Industry Corporation, which comes under the Department of Agriculture and Livestock, has been trying to stop the spread of the pest especially in Jiwaka and Eastern Highlands. Business Editor SHIRLEY MAULUDU discussed with CIC chief executive Charles Dambui, pictured, the work it is doing with its partners to contain the pest.
MAULUDU: What is coffee berry borer?
DAMBUI: The coffee berry borer is a small black beetle measuring between 1.5mm and 2mm. The female beetle bores into young and ripe coffee berries generally through the navel (tip) region. The saleable coffee beans are damaged by the insect’s boring and feeding inside the beans.
MAULUDU: When was the CBB identified in Papua New Guinea?
DAMBUI: The first CBB incursion in PNG was reported in 2009 in Yapsie, West Sepik. However, immediate and collaborative efforts then by the Coffee Industry Corporation (CIC), National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority (NAQIA) and the Department of Agriculture and Livestock managed to contain the spread of this deadly pest and it was successfully eradicated. On Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017, a farmer in Banz, Jiwaka took quick action by reporting a CBB case to the CIC office in Simbu. His second harvest for the year had shown a sign of CBB bore holes on the beans. The infested bean sample was investigated at the CIC laboratory in Aiyura, Eastern Highlands. Samples were also sent for further tests by partners at the University of Florida in the United States of America. They were confirmed to be the CBB.
MAULUDU: How dangerous is the CBB to the farmers and the economy in general?
DAMBUI: A farmer producing 10 60kg bags of parchment coffee in a year could lose up to seven bags or make only three bags due to a severe CBB infestation. This is the last thing a farmer could wish for, with most of his family and community obligations met by the sale of coffee on the sixth month each year. On the national scale, production per year will be reduced by 40 to 60 per cent if nothing is done to control severe infestation. The value of damage by CBB to the coffee industry will reach between K250 million and K300 million per year. Under severe infestation, and if no control measures are put in place, it can cause premature fruit-fall and reduced bean weight and quality. The out-turn ratio (or conversion ratio) of ripe cherries to parchment coffee will increase by 62 per cent from 5:1 to more than 17:1. When CBB is not present, for every tonne of cherries harvested, 153 kg of parchment coffee could be recovered. On the other hand, with severe infestation of CBB, for every tonne of coffee cherries harvested, only 58 kg of parchment coffee will be recovered. Crop losses caused by this pest can be severe, ranging from 50 to 100 per cent damaged berries if no control measures are applied.
MAULUDU: Government has allocated K5 million to the CBB intervention in the recent supplementary budget. Would that be enough to assist with the containment of the CBB?
DAMBUI: The fight against CBB must be a priority for all stakeholders involved in the coffee supply chain including the government. The CIC acknowledges government support of K5m for CBB in their supplementary budget. The K5m allocation is basically to start mobilising labour, tools, and chemicals. It includes conducting awareness to contain and manage the spread of CBB. We anticipate more funding to fight CBB in the budget proper for 2018 and going forward. The coffee pest is spreading at a faster rate, hence the CIC needs support from all coffee stakeholder to minimise the immediate impact on coffee quality and production. Adequate funds are needed by the CIC not only to minimise the impact of CBB on coffee quality and quantity but also to adequately resource its research and development programme. This includes training scientists and more importantly our farmers who must be equipped with relevant and appropriate knowledge to contain and manage this pest.
MAULUDU: Which provinces have now been affected with the borer?
DAMBUI: In Eastern Highlands, many smallholder gardens including plantations are infested by CBB. Three plantations have indicated the presence of the pest – Roka and Wantrifu in Asaro and Arikayufa in the Unggai-Bena district. Block-holders include Gire Gire, Paul Asaro and David Mehuwo from Asaro Valley. In Jiwaka province, CBB is currently confined to Banz and Minj towns and along roads connecting these towns. Other areas of Jiwaka and Western Highlands are free of the CBB. Delimiting survey by CIC, NAQIA and DAL are on-going as part of the surveillance and defence against the CBB in infested and pest-free areas of Southern Highlands, Hela, Western Highlands, Enga, Simbu, Eastern Highlands and Morobe.
MAULUDU: Can the borer also spread to neighbouring coastal provinces if not properly contained?
DAMBUI: The borer could move from one province to another through infected coffee. That is, unprocessed coffee which includes cherry and parchment. It can also be moved by people visiting and working in infested coffee gardens.
MAULUDU: What are some of the signs coffee farmers should be aware of when the trees are infested with the CBB?
DAMBUI: The only way of detecting the borer is to check the coffee beans with holes at the apex end. The pest cannot be seen with the naked eye. CBB presence in the coffee berries will show a small deep hole at the navel (tip) region of the berry. When cut in half, the damage done to the bean will show something like this in the images below:
MAULUDU: What measures are currently being undertaken to contain the spread?
DAMBUI: The CIC is currently carrying out the rehabilitation of coffee gardens, spot eradication of isolated areas through stumping and stripping and gleaning of coffee berries, spraying of highly-infested areas with insecticide and restricting the movement of coffee from restricted areas into clean areas. Seven of its provincial offices have closed all operations since February to attend to containment exercises in affected areas.