Zentveld coffee owners June and Rebecca Zentveld, standing amongst their coffee trees near the neighbour?s shed.
Zentveld coffee owners June and Rebecca Zentveld, standing amongst their coffee trees near the neighbour?s shed.

Disease risk fuelscoffee bean boil

By DAWN COHEN

A COFFEE war brewing between Zentvelds and Byron Bay Coffee Company came to the boil at the Ballina Shire Council on Thursday.

The problem, according to Zentveld's owner June Zentveld, is that despite its name, Byron Bay Coffee's beans are not all from Byron Bay.

The company uses 25 per cent imported beans, which could carry a microscopic fungal disease, coffee rust.

Byron Bay Coffee Company has applied to process the beans in a shed next to Zentveld's Newrybar nurseries.

Ms Zentveld told the council the fungal spores could infect not only her crop, but destroy the Australian industry.

"Australia is the only place other than Hawaii where you can get pesticide-free coffee, because we have no coffee disease," she said on Thursday.

"If coffee rust came, we would have to use an expensive and dangerous fungicide.

"You could say goodbye to the platypus and the birds on our property."

Byron Bay Coffee Company confirmed that it used imported beans, but said they presented no threat to the local industry.

"We are already processing imported beans on a neighbouring property, and there has been no problem," said Annie Ivancich, Byron Bay Coffee Company owner.

A letter submitted to council from The NSW Department of Primary Industries notes that the company has been importing beans under the Australian Quarantine In- spection Service (AQIS) protocol, which takes coffee rust into account.

"On this, AQIS is gospel," said Ms Ivancich.

If so, June Zentveld is quoting a different text.

"AQIS have written to me saying they could not guarantee that coffee rust would not be brought in," she said.

"It is like unsafe sex. The chances are small, but the consequences huge. We can't afford the risk."

David Peasley, chair of the Australian Coffee Industry Research and Development Advisory Committee agrees.

"I have seen coffee rust overseas, and we don't want it here," he said.

"The spores can last up to six weeks and are hard to detect.

"Imported beans should be processed in an industrial estate away from plantations."

Ballina Shire Council has deferred their decision, requesting an independent report from Byron Bay Coffee Company on the environmen- tal risks.

n What do you think?

Phone the Star Feedback line on 6624 3266 or email opin- ions@northernstar.com.au



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