HONOLULU – Hawaii farmer Paul Uster was on vacation in California when he saw a package of Kona coffee blend in a supermarket that he knew would upset fellow growers back home on the Big Island.
The Safeway brand of Kona blend medium roast coffee didn’t specify what percentage was made from the world-famous bean or whether it was grown in Hawaii – information a law in the Aloha State requires for labels on Hawaii-grown coffee. That law is meant to inform consumers but also protect the integrity of Hawaii’s premier coffee grown on slopes of volcanic rock.
“It degrades the reputation and the quality of Kona coffee. When consumers are not informed it makes it harder for me to make a living,” said Uster, who owns Mokulele Farms and is on the board of directors of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association. “Kona and other Hawaiian coffees are a great treasure to the state.”
Hawaii is the only place in the United States where coffee is grown. Beans grown in the Kau district of the Big Island are also gaining popularity among discerning coffee aficionados.
Safeway’s blend was priced at $8.99 a pound, Uster said, while 8 ounces of pure Kona coffee can sell for $25.
On Saturday, April 23, 2011 from 8:30 am – 5 pm, Island X Hawaii / Old Sugar Mill Brand Coffee & Chocolate will host a celebration of North Shore grown coffee, cacao, produce, food, art, film, music, and surf industry manufacturing at an open house exhibition in the Old Sugar Mill, Waialua.
The North Shore town of Waialua was once a bustling sugar mill town producing what locals said was the “World’s Best Sugar” but in 1996 the Waialua Sugar Mill stopped production and closed its gates after over a 100 years of operation. In recent years, however, there has been a quiet resurgence of shops, businesses, and local product manufacturing that has helped transform the Old Waialua Sugar Mill into one of Oahu’s newest visitor destinations. The mill is also the processing site of Waialua Coffee and Cacao / Dole. Free mini tours of the coffee and chocolate mill as well as free Waialua Coffee samples are offered daily at Island X Hawaii. Come join us on Saturday, April 23rd, for a gathering of local art, food, music, and community groups and to celebrate the rebirth of the Old Historic Waialua Sugar Mill town.
Reduced prices and yields brought the value of Hawai’i coffee production down last season to a five-year low, according to a government report.
The Hawai’i field office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service said farm-level sales of Hawai’i coffee totaled $25.6 million in the 2009-10 season. That was down from $29.6 million in the prior season and was the lowest since $19.9 million in 2004-05. The recent high was $37.3 million in 2005-06.
Farmers harvested 6,300 acres of coffee last season, which was second most in the last six years. But farmers obtained an average $3.20 per pound for their crop, which was down from $3.40 in the prior season and a recent high of $4.55 in 2005-06. Yield also was also relatively low at 8 million pounds of dried beans, down from 8.7 million pounds in the prior season.