- How important is diversified agriculture to the Big Island's economy?
Diversified agriculture provides the following to the Big Island's economy:
- over 2,550 direct employment in 1996
- $300 million annual revenue
- supplies at least 50% of the Big Island's fresh fruits and vegetable consumption
- How many acres of land became available as a result of the recent closure of the sugar industry on the Big Island?
Around 68,000 acres of former sugarcane lands became available on the Big Island (34,560 acres – Hamakua Sugar Co., 17,860 acres – Hilo Coast, and 16,000 acres – Kau Agribusiness).
- What are the major constraints towards the expansion of diversified agriculture on the Big Island?
Inability to expand market outside the State for our fresh products and the lack of available and reliable transportation for all agricultural products.
- Why can we not market our fresh products outside of the State?
Hawaii, like many other tropical places, has agriculture pests that destroy crops. U.S. mainland and foreign markets prohibit the entry of our fresh produce into their markets due to these pests.
- What has to be done with our fresh produce so that it can be marketed outside of the State?
All fresh produce has to undergo quarantine treatment for these pests.
- What pest quarantine treatment do we have available for our fresh products?
Presently, we have three approved quarantine for fruitflies. The vapor heat treatment for papaya, cold treatment for starfruit and irradiation for lychee, papaya and starfruit.
- How long does it take to develop a pest quarantine treatment?
It takes five to six years.
- Why is the County pursuing irradiation as a pest quarantine treatment for our fresh produce?
- Currently, we have farmers needing quarantine treatment for their products in order for them to export to the U.S. mainland.
- Irradiation is very effective as a fruitfly quarantine treatment and it also preserves the quality and appearance of the fruit.
- The Big Island produces over 60% of the State's diversified crops.
- Tropical fruits from Hawaii that were irradiated in Chicago were test marketed in the U.S. mainland and were well received by consumers.
- Having the products irradiated in Chicago and then transported back to California for market added a tremendous transportation cost to farmers.
- Having the irradiation facility on the Big Island will cut down transportation costs and provide our farmers with better income.
- Unlike the vapor heat treatment where the papaya will have to be picked quarter ripe, irradiation can treat fruits that are fully ripe without compromising the quality and appearance of the fruit which in turn enables our farmers to receive a higher price for their products.
- With better income, farmers will be enticed to expand production.
- With the expansion in production, former sugarcane lands will be put into productive use.
- The increase in our production coupled with the production from other counties requiring irradiation treatment will create a large volume of products needing transportation from the Big Island.
- This large volume of products will encourage transportation providers to establish their business on the Big Island, thus addressing our transportation problem in addition to creating another source of employment.
- Why do we need to be concerned with the quality and appearance of our fresh fruit?
Quality and appearance are very important in marketing. Hawaii's only competitive edge against fresh fruits produced in other places is QUALITY. Hawaii can produce quality fresh fruits. Irradiation is the only approved fruitfly quarantine treatment available for us at the present time that allows us to maintain the QUALITY and appearance of our fresh fruits while they are being sold in the market.
- Can we not use vapor heat treatment to treat all our fresh fruits?
Vapor heat treatment is approved as a fruitfly quarantine treatment only for papaya. The use of vapor heat treatment as fruitfly quarantine treatment for other tropical fruits has not yet been approved by the Agriculture Pests and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
- Has research been conducted to investigate the use of vapor heat treatment for other tropical fruits?
Yes. Vapor heat turned lychee and rambutan black within three days, and scalded avocados. Most of the tropical fruits are very delicate and they cannot tolerate heat. Thus, vapor heat has limited applicability for most tropical fruits.
- Why do we have to sell our fresh produce outside of the State?
We have a very limited market within the State. With the closure of sugar plantations, we have to create job-producing activities utilizing the ample former sugarcane lands that are currently available. Farmers will not plant if there are no markets for their products.
- Will the irradiation facility cater to tropical fruits?
No. The irradiation facility will also be utilized to conduct research on the applicability of the technology for other food and non-food items.