Fears brewing over coffee bean decision

By DAWN COHEN

BYRON Bay Coffee has won the final round in a controversial battle to process imported coffee beans on its Newrybar plantation.

Neighbour June Zentveld and some other coffee growers fear that imported beans processed next to their farms will introduce incurable coffee rust to the local industry.

In a close vote this week, Ballina Shire Council approved Franco and Annie Ivancich's plans to use an existing shed to process and package imported beans.

"We are relieved and surprised it has taken so long for the truth to be seen," said Mr Ivancich.

"Coffee rust only lasts for three hours on dry green beans," he said.

But Ms Zentveld said it's not the beans she worries about but the sacks they come in, which she says can harbour the fungus for up to six weeks.

At its last October meeting the council asked Byron Bay Coffee for an independent consultant to assess the risk.

"The sacks could pick up a few spores," said the Ivancich's expert, Dr Melissa Taylor, of Lennox Head.

"But the risk is remote." She could not put a figure to the chances.

Australian Quarantine Inspection Service sees no problem with the Ivancich's proposal.

But Cr Keith Johnson warned that authorities can be wrong.

"It is fungal paradise here. The risk is small, but the consequences huge," he said.

Yesterday, Franco Ivancich guaranteed his product will not introduce the fungus to the local crop, but Ms Zentveld is not reassured.

"We are all disappointed and frightened," she said.

Crs Brown, Cadwallader, Wright, Moore and Howes voted for approval.

Crs Silver, Rich, Felsch and Johnson opposed the motion.



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