A yearlong study of issues and challenges faced by Hawaii’s organic food industry recently concluded with the issuance of a final report.
The report, “Growing Organics: Moving Hawaii’s Organic Industry Forward,” puts forth 58 recommendations to increase organic food production and distribution, improve access to technical assistance, promote producer and consumer education, reduce costs, and foster greater advocacy for certified organic food production in Hawaii, among others.
At the behest of leading members of Hawaii’s organic industry, The Kohala Center, an independent non-profit organization based on Hawaii Island, applied for USDA Specialty Crops Block Development Grant funding through the state Department of Agriculture to conduct an analysis of barriers inhibiting the availability of certified-organic food produced in Hawaii.
The Center facilitated the project and convened a statewide Organic Industry Advisory Group (OIAG), comprised of specialty crop producers and other industry representatives and affiliates from across the state, to guide research, data collection, public input, and analysis.
“With Hawaii’s organic stakeholders lacking a centralized program office, this project set out to determine not only what such an office might do, but to define the critical issues and barriers constraining Hawaii’s organic industry from producing and offering more food at more reasonable prices,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cole, chief operating officer of The Kohala Center.
“By identifying issues most important to the state’s organic stakeholders and soliciting additional public input, the OIAG was able to recommend ways in which existing organizations, including the newly reorganized Hawaii Organic Farming Association, could adapt to best serve the needs of the state’s certified organic growers, producers, distributors, and consumers,” Cole said.
A series of public surveys conducted last summer as part of the project made clear that the demand for locally grown, certified-organic produce is high among Hawaii consumers, as well as producers of value-added products.
Primary barriers to the availability of fresh, locally grown, certified-organic produce included insufficient transportation infrastructure; availability of affordable, organic-certifiable farmland; high costs of energy and imported agricultural inputs; and scarcity of suitable processing and packaging facilities.
The recommendations contained in the final report span 10 subject areas including representation, processing, farmland, distribution, education and enforcement, and marketing.
Existing public and private entities such as government agencies, educational institutions, and inter-island transport companies were identified and correlated with each recommendation based on their potential to create or update programs and services to better support the production and availability of locally grown, certified organic foods in Hawaii.
“The final report should serve as a useful roadmap to guide the future of organics in Hawaii,” said OIAG member Mark Fergusson, CEO and CFO of Down to Earth Organic & Natural supermarkets on Oahu and Maui, and current president of HOFA. “The recommendations offer the local industry a plan for the future, as well as practical suggestions on how HOFA can better serve the industry’s needs.”
For further information, call 887-6411 or visit: www.kohalacenter.org/laulima/o…