July 19, 2019
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Green Coffee Imports – KCFA Position Statement

KCFA represents the farmer’s voice to our legislators.

Green Coffee Imports – Position Statement

Adopted by KCFA Board of Directors, April 19, 2006
We are the only coffee growing country stupid enough to permit the import of foreign beans intoour growing areas.

According to its own website the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Plant Quarantine Program began over a hundred years ago when, in 1888, King David Kalakaua decreed that in order to protect the coffee industry in Hawaii, new coffee plants would not be allowed into the islands. This protection has
resulted in us having the only 100 year old trees still producing coffee; all other coffee growing areas are riddled with disease and pests. We have the worlds best tasting coffee, and the worlds healthiest coffee trees.

In the 1970’s the rules were changed to allow fumigated unprocessed coffee in. All bulk green coffee imported in the State of Hawaii is fumigated with methyl bromide. This includes foreign coffees and Hawaiian coffee that was sent out of state for decaffeination. The coffee HAS to be fumigated to prevent the spread of coffee berry borer and coffee leaf rust, two of the most destructive pests to coffee worldwide and not currently found in Hawaii.

In the 1980’s African coffees were banned because the fumigation did not sufficiently protect our crops. APHIS (Animal & Plant Health Inspection, Dr. Neil Reimer – Head of Plant Quarantine) stated that African coffees are not allowed into the state of Hawaii UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES because the pests/diseases prevalent in African coffees are not killed by methyl bromide fumigation, and would be so devastating to our coffee growing area that they cannot be allowed in.

Some green coffees for samples and for home roasters escape this fumigation process as they come in through the regular mail and Fed Ex, even though such importation without fumigation is illegal. The rules are not generally known in the mainland, and most people who ship or receive these small amounts are unaware they are breaking the law.

Methyl Bromide is both a carcinogen and a proven atmospheric ozone depletant. The Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987, ordered the phase-out of Methyl Bromide by 1999. However, no alternative has been found that fumigates coffee, and the USDA found a loophole in the Treaty that allowed for continued use. That loophole was due to be closed in 2005, but has been extended as there is still no proven alternative.

Current Situation:
Recent research has determined that:

  1. Coffee Leaf Rust, formerly endemic to Africa, is now in the South American and Mexican growing areas. (Coffee diseases: a clear and present danger – Flood, Gil, Waller, published in Coffee Futures by USDA, CABI, ICO, 2002)
  2. Coffee Berry Borer, formerly endemic to Africa, is now in Asia and Central and South America (CABI Commodities – Integrated Management of the Coffee Berry Borer – project dated May 2002 -Dr. Peter Baker) This means that African coffee pests are showing up in the areas that we still import from.


  • It is the safest way to protect all of Hawaii’s coffees from imported pests
  • We have been struggling with how to stop the import of smaller quantities of green coffee that don’t even go through methyl bromide as they get shipped in by US Mail etc…. If we have an absolute ban it is easier to get the word out than to say “it has to go through fumigation”–which is something many feel they can ignore. This legislation would help us to stop this risk also.
  • It would certainly guarantee that green coffee being shipped OUT of Hawaii can only be Hawaiian coffee, which would make mainland buyers feel even more secure in our products.
  • It allows us to be in line with the Montreal Protocol and take a known carcinogen and greenhouse gas out of coffee production.

We are already at some degree of risk. Major dispute is probable over how MUCH of a risk, but we should certainly be ready to ask the HDOA to look again at the question.
If Methyl Bromide is phased out, we need to be CERTAIN that any alternative offers the same or even better protection.
At the VERY LEAST we should be asking that, for consumer safety, the packaging of coffee that has been fumigated with Methyl Bromide declare this fact .
Many other treasured Hawaiian crops (banana, pineapple, guava, orchids, and many more) are completely protected from incoming pests and diseases by import laws which prevent any unprocessed fruits, seeds and plants coming in from foreign sources. It is time for our unique coffees, which add
considerably to the economy of Hawaii in many ways, to be given that same level of protection.