As the dreaded white stem borer (WSB) continues to wreak havoc in the country’s key coffee growing regions of Kodagu, Chikmagaluru and Hassan, the Karnataka government has declared these three districts “pest affected areas”.

As a result, the movement of plant, soil or manure affected by the white stem borer is being prohibited in a bid to control the spread of the pest, which mainly infests the arabica variety of coffee plants.

Karnataka is the largest coffee producing State, accounting for over 70 per cent (3 lakh tonnes) of India’s 3.4-lakh-tonne output.

Based on the Coffee Board’s recommendations, the State recently issued a notification in this regard, invoking the provisions of the Karnataka Agricultural Pests and Diseases Act, 1968. It will be in effect for five years from the date of publication of the notification in the official gazette, a Coffee Board release said.

Measures for growers

Growers are being directed to take up preventive and remedial measures to control the spread of the pest by identifying the infested plants, uprooting and burning them on the spot.

With no effective solution in sight to tackle the WSB, which thrives in the trunk region of arabica plants, the pest has become a menace for the growers, inflicting huge economic losses on them.

As a result, the area under arabica has been coming down over the years, and stood at 1.08 lakh ha in 2016-17, down from 1.10 lakh ha in 2009-10. Production of arabica in the State has come down to around 70,000 tonnes down from 75,000 tonnes in the same period.

“Its a good move and could help control the WSB,” said Pramod HT, Chairman of the Karnataka Planters Association. Pramod felt that the government should extend financial support to growers to follow preventive measures, and also to take up replanting in the affected areas.

Faced with a bearish trend in prices for the past two years amidst a decline in output, growers are finding it difficult to take care of their estates, resulting in a flare-up of WSB.

Also, the timing of the notification, just ahead of the Assembly elections in the State, has raised many an eyebrow in the planter community.