Hawaii Agriculture Moving Past the Pineapple - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii Agriculture Moving Past the Pineapple

Dan Nellis Dan Nellis
Coffee production is increasing in the islands Coffee production is increasing in the islands

By Jane Wells

HONOLULU (CNBC) -- The days of old Hawaii consisted mainly of farming and agriculture.  But since then the state has adjusted to an economy that relies heavily on tourism. That means diversity has taken on a more important meaning.

Hawaii has been as much about sugar cane and pineapples as its been about tourism and volcanoes.  But like a lava plume that's starting to sputter out Hawaii's farming has slowed.   Not so much because of development but because of international competition.

The amount of fruit harvested dropped 11 percent in the last year to 435 million pounds.  Pineapple tonnage is down 70 percent in a decade mostly because Hawaii has shut down pineapple canneries. They're just too expensive and Del Monte has stopped growing them here, leaving only two competitors.

"We're concentrating on our niche market that we have the advantage on and that's the beautiful fresh Hawaiian pineapple and getting it to the United States to the mainland fresher and better than other parts of the world can do" said Dan Nellis, who heads up Dole Foods Hawaii operations, where pineapples are still the core crop. 

He's watched as the entire farming industry here has changed.  In fact there is no dairy on this island any longer.  That's a very recent thing this year. 

Farmers in Hawaii are learning to diversify because you can no longer grow just one crop and compete in a global economy. For example at dole, they're starting to grow more coffee and one of the fastest growing crops in Hawaii is now seeds.
To have a geographical advantage by being in a subtropical zone that they can grow multiple crops in a year, something that can certainly be done in other parts of the world.  The hope is to make it more efficient here and more profitable than anywhere else

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