The Kenya Coffee Research Institute sent a communiqué on July 8, 2016 to Kenyan farmers warning them of a coffee berry borer (CBB) outbreak. The information package, which was sent by the director, Mr. Manai, warned of an upwards of 70% – 80% crop loss should farmers not take steps to combat the bug.
The coffee berry borer, Hypothenemus hampei Ferrari, is a major pest of Robusta and Arabica coffee grown in relatively low altitudes, which in Kenya would be below 5,000 feet and above 4,200 feet. In Kenya, the CBB is common in all coffee growing areas and has recently been observed to increase possibly due to higher than normal temperatures at this time of year. The CBB potentially will continue damaging the yields even after harvest.
There is concern that this outbreak could affect Kenya’s main crop output in December of 2016.
The CBB burrows into coffee cherries and lays its eggs in the fruit. The eggs become larvae, which then eat the remainder of the fruit and ruin the bean.
Infestation by CBB can cause yield losses of up to 80% – 96%. Infestations or populations of berry borers are carried over from one coffee crop to the next by breeding in over-ripe berries and Buni that are left on the trees or have fallen to the ground. This is a very important starting point in the management of the borer.
In Kenya, CBB populations have traditionally been controlled by applying the following cultural farming methods:
- Regular picking of coffee cherry to prevent them from becoming over-ripe or dry and eventually falling on the ground.
- All coffee cherry that fall to the ground during picking should be collected to prevent berries from becoming a source of re-infestation.
- No ripe or dried berries should be left on the ground or on the tree after coffee picking or just before a main flowering. Old crop should be stripped off completely.
- All infested berries that are stripped or collected from the ground should be destroyed by burning, deep burying or rapid drying on trays as Buni.
According to Njoga Farms Manager Ngarî Karîithi, the CBB is causing significant damage to some farmers’ coffee crops and the economic well-being of coffee farmers in Kenya’s delicate ecosystem.
Coffee is a main economic activity in the highlands of Kenya and pumps enough foreign exchange into the local economy to keep the relatively young Kenyan economy performing at its peak. The coffee industry creates and sustains jobs across East Africa, making it a vital part of Kenya’s economy.
To prevent the spread of CBB, the Coffee Research Institute recommends the removal of any unpicked coffee cherries from trees in order to prevent reproduction after pruning; the use of baited traps during flowering season; and efficient harvesting methods to prevent contamination.