BENGALURU:Production and supply of coffee could be affected in the state in the coming months, with the state government declaring the coffee districts of Karnataka — Kodagu, Chikkamagalur and Hassan — “pest-affected areas” for a period of five years. The state government’s decision is based on recommendations of the Central Coffee Research Institute (CCRI), Coffee Board, which has found coffee plantations to be extensively affected by a resilient pest called Coffee White Stem Borer (CWSB). This pest, according to CCRI, is a very tough one to handle because once it gains entry into the coffee plant stem, it becomes very difficult to control it through any plant protection sprays.
Retention of infected plants in the field helps the disease spread to unaffected coffee plantations, causing very poor yields, that too of inferior quality. “Considering the frequent flare-ups of the CWSB in recent years, it is felt necessary to issue fresh notification invoking the provisions of the Karnataka Agricultural Pests & Diseases Act, 1968,” a statement from Coffee Board on Tuesday said.
Accordingly, based on the representation of the Coffee Board, the state government has issued a notification declaring the areas comprising Kodagu, Chikkamagalur and Hassan districts to be ‘pest-affected areas’ for a period of five years from April 12, 2018, the date of notification.
The CCRI has evolved an integrated pest management strategy with updated control measures from time to time. “However, in recent years, the adoption of recommended interventions at the (coffee) estate level has been constrained by the shortage of skilled work force,” the statement said. “Further, due to non-adoption of timely phyto-sanitary measures and lack of a community approach in adopting the control measures, and also due to erratic weather caused by climate change, the CWSB pest continues to be a major threat for Arabica coffee cultivation, especially in the coffee-growing districts of Karnataka.”
During summer, with excess heat, the CWSB lays eggs and hatches. One insect can lay up to a whopping 200 eggs, which spells out how quickly the pest can spread. The only measure for the time being is to burn the affected crop.
KK Manukumar, member of Coffee Board, and a coffee grower at Kalledevarapura, Kaimara Post in Chikmagaluru, said that in Karnataka, the annual production of Arabica coffee beans is around 60,000 tones. “When the pest infects the plant, it will not just die, but the pest spreads the disease to other plants. Thus, production comes down. If we prevent the pest by adopting remedies mentioned in the notification, in future, we can get better yield. It’s a routine process,’’ he said.