Big Isle papaya farmers’ loss estimated at $53M

Tropical Storm Iselle hit Hawaii island hard. It devastated papaya farms in Pahoa as the fruit-laden, top-heavy trees were no match for the storm’s intense winds.

HILO >> Hawaii island farmers are assessing damage to crops after Tropical Storm Iselle made landfall last weekend.

“It was pretty clear to us that the papaya farmers took the highest amount of damage,” Richard Ha, president of the Hamakua Springs Country Farms, told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. “Estimation of the sales lost, plus the startup, the bulldozing costs and growing up to that first year, when they’re ready to harvest again is about $53 million,” he said.

“People have been flying overhead to look over the damage with helicopters. The damage is devastating. Some folks have about 80 percent damage. Some folks’ farms had less, of course, but the damage is extremely high,” Ha said.

State and federal agriculture officials spoke with local farmers Monday, he said.

Japan approves genetically modified papayas

Japanese consumers will likely be seeing genetically modified papayas on their grocery shelves beginning in December.

The Japanese government’s Consumer Affairs Agency on Thursday approved rainbow papayas for sale in that country.

The papayas had previously been approved by Japan’s Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; and Health, Labour and Welfare ministries. The strain was approved for sale in the U.S. in 1998 and in Canada in 2003.

The Japanese labeling approval was the last step to get the papayas introduced into Japan — there will be a three-month waiting period before the papayas are available.

“The approval by the Japanese government has been slow but thorough,” Delan Perry, the vice president of the Hawaii Papaya Industry, said. “They asked a lot of questions.”

It’s a process that’s taken 10 years.

“It’s an important approval as far as the technology,” said Perry, who is a papaya grower in Kapoho.

The papayas were engineered to resist papaya ring spot virus, which was discovered in the Puna area in 1992 and severely damaged crops there.

To create the resistance to the virus, scientists fused the DNA of the virus into the genetic makeup of a papaya, creating a new strain.

Dennis Gonsalves, the director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service’s Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo, said it’s similar to a vaccination in animals.

The rainbow’s introduction “controlled the virus in Hawaii,” Gonsalves said. “It essentially saved the industry in Hawaii.”

While Gonsalves — who worked with a group of fellow public sector scientists to create the genetically modified fruit — and others say the introduction of rainbow papayas was essential, some disagree.

Last JAL Kona-to-Tokyo flight lands on Big Island

KAILUA-KONA (AP) – After 14 years of serving the Big Island, financially strapped Japan Airlines has ended its flight between Tokyo and Kona International Airport.

Passengers arriving Friday on JAL Flight 70 from Narita International Airport were greeted with lei and live Hawaiian music, the Big Island Visitors Bureau said.

JAL offered the only direct international flight outside of North America to the Big Island, the bureau said. Since the inaugural Kona flight in June 1996, JAL has carried more than 980,000 visitors between Narita and Kona, it said.

”It is also a vital carrier of Big Island exports including macadamia nuts, papayas, coffee, spirulina, abalone and desalinated sea water to the Japanese market,” the bureau said in a news release.

”The JAL flight is without a doubt the most important international route for Hawaii island. The positive impact it has made on our economy for the last 14 years is highly significant, and we truly hope to welcome JAL back someday,”


Japan airlines ends service between Kona and Narita

by Chelsea Jensen

Japan Airlines’ final flight to Kailua-Kona came and went Friday morning, ending 14 years of daily service to West Hawaii.

Since the direct Narita, Japan, to Kailua-Kona flight began in June 1996 nearly a million Japanese visitors have arrived at Kona International Airport, said Hawaii Tourism Authority Tourism and Marketing Vice President David Uchiyama. Annually, the flight brought in more than 70,000 visitors into Kona International Airport, he said.

“This flight is the connection between Japan and the island. The relationship between Japan and Hawaii is very close so this is a very tough time for both sides,” Uchiyama said.

The flight was one of 15 international routes Japan Airlines announced in April 2010 it would suspend in order to restructure the company through bankruptcy.

Tsuruta Tetsuro and his wife, Nobuko, were two of the approximately 240 people waiting to board the final Japan Airlines flight out of Kona Friday. The couple, from Fukuoka, Japan, said they are regular visitors to the island and will continue to visit even though the direct flight has been suspended.

“It’s a pity it will make it a little more inconvenient to travel here,” Tsuruta said. “We will miss this flight, but JAL will get better soon, and they will bring back this flight.”

Master Gardeners Visit Waimanalo

HONOLULU — What’s new in mulch? Trouble with your root balls? Master gardeners from around Hawaii made a field trip to Waimanalo Sunday to learn about the latest techniques and innovations in Hawaii agriculture.

The Waimanalo Agricultural Station is like the promised land for master gardeners. It’s where the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture tends test beds, conducts research on organic gardening and develops the newest techniques in soil management.

Master gardeners are volunteers, trained by university extension service programs, who are able to educate the public on gardening and horticultural issues.

Master gardeners came from all around the state Sunday for a field trip to the Waimanalo Agricultural Station.

“I think as a master gardener we get so focused on our own islands. Coming together to be master gardeners of Hawaii rather than just our island, we share different programs that are going on. We find out what can we bring back and augment on our island,” said Melanie Stephens, a master gardener from Maui.

Op-Ed Contributors – The Value of Genetically Engineered Foods – New York Times

Op-Ed Contributors

Genetically Engineered Distortions


A REPORT by the National Research Council last month gave ammunition to both sides in the debate over the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. More than 80 percent of the corn, soybeans and cotton grown in the United States is genetically engineered, and the report details the “long and impressive list of benefits” that has come from these crops, including improved soil quality, reduced erosion and reduced insecticide use.

It also confirmed predictions that widespread cultivation of these crops would lead to the emergence of weeds resistant to a commonly used herbicide, glyphosate (marketed by Monsanto as Roundup). Predictably, both sides have done what they do best when it comes to genetically engineered crops: they’ve argued over the findings.

Lost in the din is the potential role this technology could play in the poorest regions of the world — areas that will bear the brunt of climate change and the difficult growing conditions it will bring. Indeed, buried deep in the council’s report is an appeal to apply genetic engineering to a greater number of crops, and for a greater diversity of purposes.

Hawaii Papayas Report 08-13-09

Click Here for the PDF and file for the Hawaii Papayas Report.
Please visit the website for more information:
Contact Information:
Mark E. Hudson, Director
USDA NASS Hawaii Field Office
1421 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96814-2512
Office: (808) 973-9588 / (800) 804-9514
Fax: (808) 973-2909
"HAWAII PAPAYAS" reports are available on our website and also PRINTED monthly. Subscriptions for PRINTED copies are free to those persons who report agricultural data to NASS (upon request) and available for $4 per year to all others



Hawaii fresh papaya utilization is estimated at 2.6 million pounds for June 2009, down 1 percent from May 2009, but up 10 percent from June 2008. Fresh utilization for January to June of 2009 is 8 percent lower than the same period in 2008.

Total in crop acreage for June is estimated at 2,075, down 11 percent from March 2009, but 2 percent above June a year ago. Harvested area totaled 1,315 acres in June, 11 percent less than March 2009, but unchanged from last year.

Sunny weather and higher temperatures prevailed during June, aiding fruit development and ripening. Field preparation for new plantings was ongoing. Trade wind showers helped replenish soil moisture levels. Irrigation was stepped up in the drier areas. Orchards were in good to fair condition during the month.

Papaya growers are expected to receive an estimated 44.0 cents per pound for fresh fruit in June, unchanged from last month, but 11 percent (5.2 cents) lower than June a year ago.

Hawaii Crop Weather Weekly Report

Here is the PDF file for the Hawaii Crop Weather (crop progress and condition) Report for the week ending February 3, 2008.


Please visit the website for more information:

USDA NASS Hawaii Field Office
1421 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96814-2512
1-800- 804-9514 February 3, 2008

“HAWAII CROP WEATHER” reports are available on our website and also PRINTED weekly. Subscriptions for PRINTED copies are free to those persons who report agricultural data to NASS, upon request and available for $20 per year to all others.

Agricultural Highlights


On the Big Island, mostly cloudy and rain-filled days slowed growth and fruit development during the week. The reduced sunlight also kept temperatures on the cool side. Incidences of Banana Bunchy Top virus remain isolated in the Puna and Kona areas. Overall, orchards in eastern sections of Hawaii County were in generally good condition. Oahu?s banana orchards were in fair condition. Fields in the leeward and central areas of Oahu made fair to good progress. Windward Oahu fields were in fair condition as cloudy conditions and cooler temperatures continued to slow crop progress and reduce yields. Kauai?s orchards were in fair condition. Harvesting was anticipated to remain steady during the coming weeks. Stripped leaves, as well as cooler temperatures and overcast skies, continued to slow crop development and fruit ripening.

Cool, wet conditions slowed orchard growth and fruit development on the Big Island. Orchards in the Puna district remained in fair to good condition. New seedlings established quickly with the high rainfall. Active flowering was evident in most fields, but the heavy rains made fieldwork difficult. Spraying will have to be maintained once the weather clears. Orchards on Oahu were in fair to poor condition. Spraying to control disease and insect infestations remained steady. Kauai?s orchards made fair progress during the week. Acreage for harvest is relatively small, and overall pickings are forecast to remain light. Spraying for disease control was delayed because of inclement weather conditions.


Hawaii Crop Weather Weekly Report

Here is the PDF file for the Hawaii Crop Weather (crop progress and condition) Report for the week ending October 28, 2007.


Please visit the website for more information:

USDA NASS Hawaii Field Office
1421 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96814-2512
1-800- 804-9514

Agricultural Highlights


Steady rain later in the week saturated most fields in windward areas of the Big Island. Most orchards were in good condition, and field work was only slightly hampered by the wet conditions. Banana Bunchy Top virus incidence remained isolated to the Puna and Kona areas. Oahu orchards were in good to fair condition. Leeward and central orchards were in good condition. Moderate to heavy irrigation levels prevailed as showers were not enough for irrigation. However, overcast conditions decreased the plant?s water needs. Windward Oahu fields were in fair to good condition with light supplies. Overall harvesting on Oahu was expected to be at moderate to heavy levels as the shorter day length and slightly cooler temperatures have slowed ripening. Kauai?s orchards were in fair to good condition. Overcast skies and cooler temperatures slowed fruit ripening slightly.

On Oahu, fruit development and ripening were fair to good. Overcast skies and shorter day length were affecting the crop. Orchards on Kauai made fair to good progress during the week. Pickings continued at moderate to light levels from several fields in active harvest. Big Island orchards were in fair to good condition. Soil moisture was high due to almost daily rainfall in the Puna area. Young orchards continued to develop, and seedlings were growing rapidly. Flowering was continuous. Virus problems still plagued selected fields in Puna and some heavily infested areas appeared to be abandoned.


Chinese Cabbage
On the Big Island, weeds were still competing with the crop in selected fields. Planting and field activities were steady. Heavy irrigation was needed to maintain crop progress. Overall, the Big Island crop was in fair to good condition.

Head Cabbage
On Oahu, harvesting is anticipated to be light. Insect infestation was light with regular spraying keeping good controls. On the Big Island, weed growth was still competing with the crop in selected fields. Planting and field activities were steady. Heavy irrigation was needed to maintain crop progress. Overall, the Big Island crop was in fair to good condition.

Sweet Corn
Windward and central Oahu fields continued to make good progress under fair weather conditions and heavy irrigation. Production is forecast to be at moderate to heavy levels for the upcoming week. Corn plantings in windward areas of the Big Island received a boost in growth when relatively dry conditions were relieved by this week?s rain. The added soil moisture and mostly sunny days boosted growth of young seedlings. Harvesting was mostly for on-island sales.

On Oahu, pressure from insect infestation was at light to moderate. Harvesting was active in several fields, and overall production levels are expected to be moderate to heavy.