POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 23, 2012
The value of Hawaii farm crops rose last year to more than $700 million for the first time, as the state's agriculture industry benefited from several dramatic commodity price and production increases, a new report shows.
Revenue from farms statewide increased 7 percent to $719.5 million in 2011 from $674.6 million the year before, according to an accounting from the National Agricultural Statistics Service released this month. It was the fourth consecutive annual increase for the industry, which surpassed $600 million in revenue in 2008.
Driving much of last year's gain were cattle farmers who benefited from a new program setting prices at a regional level, the report said. The pricing change drove cattle revenue up by 50 percent to $46.4 million last year from $30.9 million the year before.
Another big driver was growth in algae production, which caused revenue to surge 51 percent to $25.2 million last year from $16.7 million the year before.
Other crops with significant revenue gains were macadamia nuts, where revenue rose 27 percent to $38.2 million due to higher production and prices, and sugar cane, where revenue rose 12 percent to $78.1 million mainly due to higher prices.
Hawaii's biggest crop by value, seed corn and other seed crops, eked out a 2 percent gain for total revenue of $243 million.
Seed crop value represents the cost of production because the companies that grow the seeds use them rather than sell them. Other crop values represent sales revenue.
Of Hawaii's 20 biggest crops, 15 achieved revenue gains. Revenue declines occurred for head cabbage, cut anthuriums, potted dendrobiums, papayas and coffee.
Coffee farmers received higher prices, but revenue fell 6 percent to $31.5 million because of lower production, the report said. Papaya farmers suffered lower prices and sales, which resulted in revenue falling 13 percent to $9.7 million.
One major Hawaii crop no longer detailed in the report is pineapple. Revenue from this crop is factored into total farm industry value but isn't broken out because it would shed light on revenue for a single producer, Dole Food Co.
Prior to 2007, pineapple revenue was disclosed because there were more than two major producers; that changed in 2006 when Del Monte Fresh Produce ceased production. Then in 2009, Maui Land & Pineapple also quit farming the fruit.