Eruptions decimate Big Island flower farms — and push up prices

Eruptions decimate Big Island flower farms — and push up prices
Hawaii flower farms are being hard by ongoing eruptions on the Big Island. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Hawaii flower farms are being hard by ongoing eruptions on the Big Island. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Prices are already rising for some types of flowers affected by the eruption. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Prices are already rising for some types of flowers affected by the eruption. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Kilauea eruption has taken a toll on many Puna flower farms, leading to limited availability and higher prices for certain items statewide.

The state Department of Agriculture estimates that up to half of the state's cut flower industry has been wiped out.

There has been a slight increase in tropical flower prices at Watanabe Floral, according to general manager Monty Pereira.

"Some of the things that we're used to getting locally, we're going to have to go around the world to try and source out and get," he said. "Then, of course, maile has been the biggest problem because it's just too dangerous for pickers to go up and pick in the Volcano area."

During Punahou School's graduation earlier this month, the 217 senior boys wore yellow rose boutonnieres instead of the traditional maile lei due to a statewide shortage.

Maile lei can be imported from Tonga, but sometimes the shipments fail to pass state agriculture inspections.

Floral design company owner Jill Easley says it can be challenging to secure some items she needs for clients.

"With the pricing being a little bit higher, we then have to go out and charge our clients a little bit more," said the owner of Easley Designs. "It's sad for everybody and I just hope that our industry will be understanding and compassionate and our clients have to be so as well."

Affected flower growers recently met for an industry meeting. Some that want to rebuild their business face a long road ahead.

"If you're looking at a crop like orchids, it will probably take 3 years at least, maybe 4 years to get them back to cash flow and in production," said Eric Tanouye, president of the Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association.

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