This is a terrible time to start importing foreign bananas due to the proposed layoffs of agricultural inspectors. The domestic crop could easily be devastated by invasive pests including banana rasp snail, red palm mite, two-spotted mite, banana root borer, banana aphid and the mealybug.
Manila may agree to Washington’s proposal to allow the entry of cold climate vegetables in exchange for the export of Philippine bananas in the US.
Agriculture officials said this may be the only way to secure the approval of the US Department of Agriculture for the Philippines’ formal request to penetrate the lucrative US market for fresh bananas.
“They are asking us if they can export temperate vegetables to the Philippines. We haven’t responded yet, but the arguments will always lead to a counter-trade arrangement," said Bureau of Plant Industry director Joel Rudinas.
The US government, Rudinas said, has expressed its interest to export temperate vegetables such as broccoli and asparagus.
He said the Philippines must submit its position on the findings of the import risk assessment (IRA) conducted by the US government on Philippine bananas as a protocol in the processing of requests for fruit exports.
In its IRA last month, the USDA said Philippine bananas may be allowed entry into the US market if mitigating measures be undertaken to address the issue of the danger of potential pests.
An IRA reviews existing quarantine policy on the import of animals, plants and their products, identifies and classifies potential quarantine risks and develop policies to manage them.
I’ve always been impressed with the quality of events Kanu Hawaii puts on to help the community and raise awareness about important issues.
The Eat Local Challenge is no exception. In fact, it strikes at the heart of possibly one of the most immediate and important questions for our islands. Eating local is beneficial on both an economic and environmental level. And the light the Challenge shines on food channels couldn’t have come at a more crucial time.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin featured on Wednesday, August 12, an article discussing plans to develop 1,500 acres of some of ‘the best ag land’ on Oahu for a 12,000 home community. The loss of this prime agricultural land to tract housing, shopping centers, and business parks will be a significant loss of our ability to grow food for ourselves.
There was a day when the economy of our islands didn’t depend on visitors from around the world. While no one suggests we return to the plantation culture, we do need to diversify our economy away from tourism. With a revenue stream that is so fundamentally tied to the vacation plans of people around the world, Hawaii is particularly vulnerable to economic hard times and recessions. We can no longer afford to depend so heavily on the disposable income of others. Hawaii must once again become self-sufficient.
PUKALANI – Plant quarantine officials said last week that laying off more than half the state’s agricultural inspectors would create such a logjam at Hawaii ports that it could cause shortages similar to those seen during shipping strikes.
Carol Okada, manager of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Plant Quarantine Branch, said she has not been able to develop a plan for how her department will continue its core functions after it loses 52 employees, 50 of them inspectors, to layoffs planned for November.
She said food shipments to Maui and the other Neighbor Islands, which because of staff shortages would now have to be routed through Honolulu for inspection, would have to sit on the docks until the state’s remaining inspectors could look at them, with the risk that some food could spoil in the unchilled containers.
Hawai’i’s $125 million agricultural export industry could be threatened by hitchhiking insects and other pests found on fresh flower, foliage and fruit shipments arriving in California.
Budget cuts have left California with fewer inspectors and made that state more prone to slap sanctions on importers when pests are discovered. Hawai’i may also lose inspectors if the state lays off workers in November as planned to balance its budget.
Five key agricultural officials sent a warning letter this month to hundreds of Hawai’i growers and shippers who sell flowers, foliage, herbs, vegetables, potted nursery products and fruit, alerting them to the potential risk of not cleaning up their shipments.
"Anyone that currently ships to California can be the ‘last straw’ that triggers the decision by California to impose severe restrictions on the movement of all products from Hawai’i into the California market," the letter states.
LOCAL [Philippine RP] BANANA producers will likely be able to export fresh bananas to the United States starting next year, an Agriculture official said yesterday.
"I am optimistic that the process in exporting [bananas] would be fast because the banana industry is organized," Joel S. Rudinas, director of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), told reporters.
"Right now we are in the comment period [proposing procedures to the US Department of Agriculture, or USDA]…until maybe end of August or September," he said, adding that the US banana market is worth over $100 million.
Manila asked Washington in December 2005 to allow fresh banana exports to the US mainland, and followed this request with another in September 2007 to export the same commodity to Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands.
The USDA gave Manila preliminary approval last July to export fresh bananas to the US mainland, with final approval pending proof by the Philippine government that it has sufficiently quarantined banana pests.
CTAHR dean details impacts of ag. inspectors layoffs
Updated at 3:27 am, Thursday, August 20, 2009.
Andrew Hashimoto, dean and director of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, gave the following testimony to the Senate Ad-Hoc Committee about the potential impacts of laying off Department of Agriculture staff.
I am pleased to provide personal testimony relating to the potential impacts on the community and agricultural industry on the Big Island, arising from the anticipated reduction and possible elimination of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Plant Quarantine Branch. This testimony does not represent the position of the University of Hawaii or CTAHR.
The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) has 329 “permanent” employees, of which 118 (approximately 36 percent) have received notices for layoff.
The Plant Quarantine (PQ) Branch will be especially hard hit. It has a total of 78 inspectors and 16 technicians (aides).
Of that, 50 inspectors and two technicians (all general funded) have been given notices. The remainder (11 inspectors and 14 technicians) are paid from special funds.
Most of the inspectors to be laid off will be from the neighbor islands. Information on the number of layoffs for each of the other HDOA branches is not known. The impact of the layoff in the PQ branch is discussed.
The State of Hawai’i is currently faced with a significant budgetary shortfall. While it is still uncertain how budget cuts may affectservices by the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture, you should be aware that if you are qualifying your pet for direct release at Honolulu International Airport and are currently making travel arrangements, it may be prudent to arrange to arrive in Honolulu during between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. This is especially important if you are planning to take a connecting flight to another island with your pet the same day.
Currently, some employees have received layoff notices. In addition, the possibility of furloughs exists. In the event layoffs or furloughs or both are implemented, it can result in a reduction of the current hours of inspection for airport release. Animals that arrive at the Airport Animal Quarantine Holding Facility after hours of inspection will be held overnight and processed the following morning.
We are providing this advisory as a precaution, because we realize that flight arrangements are usually made far in advance of travel. If the situation changes, we will update this webpage accordingly.
The airport office will continue to accept pets arriving from the airlines at Honolulu International Airport; however, we anticipate that inspection hours may be affected, which will result in delays in processing the inspection and release of pets at the airport.
And so, it seems, is the reality of the state’s budget crisis, with The Advertiser reporting today that proposed layoffs in the Department of Agriculture could imperil food imports and exports.
On the import side, [Big Island Rep. Clifton] Tsuji said, he’s already heard from a major produce importer who warned that a dramatic slowdown in the time it takes to have items inspected could spell the end of the import of certain types of lettuce or other food products that perish easily. "If they don’t have the inspectors, they might have to cease importing these items," Tsuji said.
It’s a double-edged sword. If some stuff’s not coming in, it could increase demand for locally-grown veggies and so spur production. But if we don’t have enough inspectors, it harms exporters, who are a major force in Hawaii’s diversified ag sector. It also increases the risk of more pest species being introduced, which is a major concern for the native environment, farmers and our overall quality of life.
It raises, once again, the question of whether Hawaii is serious about ensuring that agriculture is part of its future.
That question will be front and center as Kauai goes through the process of identifying its Important Ag Lands. We’re the first county to do such a study, which is mandated by Act 233. Dr. Karl Kim of UH has been awarded the county contract, and he’ll be talking about the process at a meeting set for 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24 at the Kapaa Library.
I was talking to Farmer Jerry the other day, and he said the most important message that needs to be conveyed about the IAL process is “it’s not gonna be the third Mahele for the developers.”