Local Foods Production
By 2030, increase access to labor and land resources to support production, processing, distribution, and consumption of local food.
Hawai‘i is committed to doubling local food production for local consumption. To track progress on this statewide goal, it is important to understand what food is being produced in Hawai‘i, what is imported, and what is exported. Unfortunately, the "Statistics of Hawai‘i Agriculture” that included export and import data, compiled by the Hawai‘i Agricultural Statistics Service in cooperation with the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), has not been published since 2009. Baseline data are not available for local food production, and therefore, the food categories will be tracked as proxies to show progress on production of local foods. The primary indicator above is incomplete for 2018, as banana and lettuce production data is not yet available.
The graph below shows pounds of food produced in various food categories in 2016. This number is aggregated and featured in the “Local Foods Production” box to illustrate the total pounds of local food produced (for the available categories from NASS and the Ocean Health Index) on an annual basis.
Figure 1: Food locally grown in 2018 (Source: USDA NASS Survey)
Local food production is on a downward trend. This trend may be attributed to environmental factors such as soil conditions, drought, and natural and man-made disasters. Other factors include the availability of farm and labor workers, land for farming, and associated costs of water and electricity (to pump the water). However, the data from 2017 is higher than 2012 data, which was the lowest point in production in 20 years. The following graph shows the trend of local food production over time.
Figure 1a: Foods locally produced in Hawai‘i are aggregated and tracked in this graph above.
Note: Not all years contain data for all crop categories. *The most recent NASS survey data available for Aquaculture stops tracking at 2011. It was replaced with fish catch data from OHI up to year 2015 (Source: National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey; Ocean Health Index (OHI))
Local Food System
Hawai‘i currently imports the majority of its food, fertilizers, energy, and seeds, leaving the islands particularly vulnerable to economic disruptions, fuel price fluctuations, catastrophic natural disasters, water scarcity, and other climate- related events. Increasing Hawai‘i’s capacity to produce and sell local food will help reduce Hawai‘i’s vulnerability to these external pressures.
A sustainable food system in Hawai‘i can support both traditional farming practices while creating new economic models for marketable products. Hawai‘i’s food systems are complex – there are crops and livestock produced within the State for local consumption, as well as crops that can produce economic flows to increase local food production and benefit the economy. Local food production can be enhanced through creating cash flows from high-value export crops (such as ‘ulu flour, Kona coffee and mamaki tea) that can support diversified production systems which also produce foods for local consumption.
Local Food Production by Category
The proxies of particular food items below chosen are based on the NASS survey to provide the most accurate data for and available categories. These following food categories are combined to provide one dataset for pounds produced locally as a primary indicator on the Dashboard. As each type of food varies greatly in density and volume produced, the categories are listed separately in the following charts to show trends in production.
The following section shows trends in the various categories of local foods that are produced in Hawaiʻi per the NASS survey. These categories do not specialty items such as coffee or sugar. The trends in production vary based on climate, water and soil conditions, and diseases and pests.
There are multiple challenges to producing protein sources in Hawai‘i including: high water costs, labor costs, processing capacity, development pressures, and lack of quality forage availability. Due to these challenges, shipping cattle to mainland is more economical since feed prices are lower and demand of beef is higher on mainland (currently due to the California drought). Beef imports rank number 15 out of the top 25 shipments to Hawai‘i (Census Survey, 2017). Additionally, controlling waste from rending materials during slaughter causes a challenge with Hawai‘i’s limited landfill space.
Figure 2: Pounds of hogs produced* (Source: Hawai‘i National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey)
*Note: 2017 Hog production data does not yet contain all participating producers; however, numbers that fully reflect hog producers will be completed by December 2018.
Figure 3: Pounds of red meat produced (Source: Hawai‘i National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey)
Hawaiʻi's Seafood Production
The total annual seafood available in Hawaiʻi is currently over 71 million pounds (including local production and imports). This translates to over 134 million meals that are available to residents each year, equating to approximately 36 pounds of seafood per person, per year.
Hawaiʻi’s fisheries provide 45 million pounds annually. The pelagic fishery dominates the catch with 40 million pounds (12 million pounds is from the non-commercial pelagic fishery). Pelagic fisheries by definition refers to fish catches on the surface of the open ocean. This is followed by the nearshore fishery (2.6 million pounds), and the bottom (seafloor) fishery (1.2 million pounds).
Figure 4: Trends in local fish production (1996-2015) for commercial pelagic, bottom, reef, and other fisheries. (Source: Teneva et al., Conservation International, 2018).
63% of Hawaiʻi’s seafood consumed is locally sourced (*seafood self-sufficiency ratio). The fact that over half of Hawaiʻi’s seafood is locally sourced indicates that Hawaiʻi relies on seafood to support local food security.
*Seafood Self-Sufficiency Ratio: The ratio of locally caught and produced seafood in Hawai‘i compared to the total available seafood in Hawai‘i that is supplemented with domestic and foreign imports. Some of Hawaiiʻs local seafood is exported, and after accounting for seafood exports from Hawai‘i 55% of our available seafood is locally sourced.
Hawaiʻi’s rich history of fishing stems from not only terrestrial farming, but emphasized the cultural and ecological importance of aquaculture. Currently, Hawaiʻi relies heavily on on seafood to support local food security and it is still a prevalent part of Hawaiʻi culture.
The Aquaculture and Livestock Support Services Branch under the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) focuses on supporting aquaponics and aquaculture systems. Aquaculture systems are important to maintain the quality of fish produced and farmed in Hawai‘i. Aquaculture provides 1% of the total seafood available in Hawaiʻi at 0.5 million pounds (Conservation International, 2018). The opportunity for locally-sourced fish from systems such as these can potentially generate more food to sustain our growing population.
Hawaiʻi’s Future Seafood Demand
With increases in population, the future seafood demand is projected to grow. The projected seafood demand for Hawaiʻi in 2040 is predicted to increase to more than 40% of today's consumption. In other words, Hawaiʻi will need to increase local seafood production or import up to 40% more to meet the local demand by 2040.
If unaddressed, this gap is likely to have negative consequences for food security, requiring increased reliance on imports. Additionally, as prices for seafood are predicted to increase, low-income households may face economic barriers to accessing seafood. To overcome this challenge, Hawaiʻi can invest in better management of seafood systems to increase production either from aquaculture or improved fisheries management.
Figure 6: The future of Hawai‘i’s seafood demand projection to 2040 (Source: Teneva et al., Conservation International, 2018).
Traditional Hawaiian Fishponds: Loko I‘a
Loko I‘a, Hawaiian fishponds, are unique aquaculture systems that have existed throughout Hawai‘i for centuries. Loko I‘a are important components of the ahupua‘a (traditional land stewardship system) that spans from the mountains to the coral reefs, contribute to the local food system, and are an important community and cultural asset. According to the last statewide survey (DHM 1990), 488 fishpond sites were identified across the islands, though many are in very degraded conditions. There are communities and stewardship groups working to actively restore the integrity and productivity of loko i‘a across the state. Kua ‘Āina Ulu ‘Aumoa (KUA) facilitates Hui Mālama Loko I‘a, a network of fishponds, community practitioners, and other stakeholders.
Eggs & Poultry
Although data on laying hens is not currently publicly available through the Hawai‘i National Agricultural Statistics Service, several commercial laying hen facilities operate on the island of O‘ahu. With a steady climate and constant warmth, Hawai‘i is an ideal location for chicken farms since insulated walls are not needed for egg producing operations. In addition, Hawai‘i isn’t as vulnerable to bird viruses due to geographic location and strict quarantine laws. The high cost of importing chicken feed is one of the largest challenges facing the production of local eggs in Hawai‘i. While there is no large-scale facility to slaughter chickens in Hawai‘i, several small operations produce free range meat birds (less than 20,000 chickens annually per operation).
There are currently only three cow dairy farms operating in the state of Hawai‘i. In the 1980s, more than 20 dairy farms operated in Hawai‘i and most of the milk consumed was produced locally. Between 1999 and 2008, many of Hawai‘i’s dairies shut down, largely due to local dairy farms facing high productions costs, making it difficult to compete with low prices of imported California milk.
Currently two certified goat dairies operate in Hawai‘i, including Hawai‘i Island Goat Dairy and Surfing Goat Dairy. Both produce various types of goat cheese that is sold at local markets and are marketed as a unique tourist attraction in Hawai‘i.
Figure 7: Pounds of milk produced (Source: Hawai‘i National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS))
Vegetables & Fruits
Cabbage, lettuce, and eggplant are displayed here because they have consistent data that can track production trends. While Hawai‘i does grow many other vegetables, consistent datasets are not currently available due to confidentiality and reporting limitations. Tomatoes, in particular, have seen growth in current years. There is a consistent effort to provide data on more vegetables through farm surveys; however, this data may have limitations based on what is reported.
Figure 8: Pounds of cabbage produced* (Source: Hawai‘i Vegetables Annual Reports; Hawai‘i National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey)
*Note: 2017 cabbage production numbers not yet available.
Figure 9: Pounds of lettuce produced (Source: Hawai‘i Vegetables Annual Reports; Hawai‘i National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey)
Figure 10: Pounds of eggplant produced (Source: Hawai‘i Vegetables Annual Reports; Hawai‘i National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey)
Commercially grown topical tropical fruits are both sold locally in Hawai‘i and for export abroad. Currently the volume of fruit sold locally and exported is not published for Hawai‘i; however, the Hawai‘i Agricultural Statistics Service will soon be conducting tropical fruit surveys. This should include atemoyas, longan, lychee, mangos, persimmons, rambutans, and other tropical fruits that thrive in Hawai‘i’s climate.
Figure 11: Pounds of bananas produced (Source: Hawai‘i National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey; *2013-2014 NASS Census, 2007-2011 Statistics of Hawaii Agriculture 2011, 2012 was not published due to government sequestration)
Figure 12: Pounds of papayas produced (Source: Hawaiʻi National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS); *Statistics of Hawaiʻi Agriculture 2011. Note part of papaya production is exported, but this number is not currently available.)
Figure 13: Pounds of avocado produced* (Source: Hawai‘i Vegetables Annual Reports; Hawai‘i National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey)
*Note: 2012 avocado production data not present due to government sequestration.
Kalo, also known as taro, is integral to Hawaiian culture and subsistence. Kalo was the most significant dietary staple for Native Hawaiians, supplemented by other principal and traditional foods, including breadfruit (‘ulu), sweet potato (‘uala), fish (i‘a) and seaweed (limu). Kalo is central to the creation story, the Kumulipo, and is revered as the nurturing older brother. Kalo is traditionally grown through both wetland and dryland cultivation (lo‘i and mala), and developed into several hundred varieties depending on climatic zones, growing seasons, and desirable traits. Today, approximately 90% of the kalo produced is from one variety, Maui lehua. Commercial growers have transitioned a majority of kalo production from the traditional methods to commodity mono-crop methods. While traditional kalo production has decreased greatly over the past century, there are many communities across the state restoring and stewarding lo‘i kalo to ensure the continued abundance of this important crop.
Figure 14: Pounds of kalo/taro produced (Source: Hawai‘i National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Census data)
‘Ulu is a high carbohydrate starch rich in nutrients that served as a food stable for Native Hawaiians. ‘Ulu can also be used for woodworking, medicinal purposes, and is a part of numerous Hawaiian mo‘olelo (stories), known as a symbol of prosperity and abundance. The National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hana, Maui contains the largest known collection of breadfruit cultivars in the world, and is working through the Breadfruit Institute to respond to global food security through ‘ulu cultivation in communities. Currently the State of Hawai‘i does not track production data on ‘ulu.
Numerous varieties of ‘uala, sweet potato, are grown in Hawai‘i due to ideal conditions for this crop to flourish. Sweet potatoes, along with taro, were a major food staple of Native Hawaiians. The stem and tips of sweet potato can be boiled or fried and served in soups and salads, and the roots and foliage can be grown as feed. The statistics on sweet potato production in Hawai‘i are not currently published and it is important to note that a large portion of sweet potatoes are exported every year.
Figure 15: From Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture, Farm to School Locally Grown Survey. Respondents statewide indicate what their production specialties are.
What You Can Do
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Learn More and Make a Difference
Sourcing and preparing local food:
- Check out the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture Island Fresh Hawai‘i Seasonality Chart.
- Hawaiian Breadfruit, Ethnobotany, Nutrition, and Human Ecology, a summary of ethnographic and ethnohistorical information about the Hawaiian breadfruit tree.
- Hawai‘i Homegrown Food Network is a community network of sustainable food systems stakeholders through education, research, information, partnership, facilitation, and training.
- Explore National Tropical Botanical Garden’s Breadfruit Institute, which promotes conservation, study, and use of breadfruit for food and reforestation.
- Agroforestry refers to growing trees together with other agricultural crops and animals with benefits to plants, animals, people, and the environment. Agroforestry has been practiced for thousands of years to sustainably provide food, medicine, and materials and to contribute to the conservation of soil and water as well as biodiversity. To learn more about local efforts in agroforestry, visit here.
Red Meat Production
- Hawai‘i Cattleman’s Council is a non-profit organization working for the cattle producers of Hawai‘i in areas of education, promotion and research. They are stewards of 1 million acres of land and have over 150 people in charge of 60,000 heads of cattle.
- Hawai‘i Island Meat Cooperative is a producer-owned and operated business providing high-quality, humane slaughter services for island ranchers, to supply fresh local meat for consumers.
- Hawai‘i Island Goat Dairy is a farmstead goat cheese operation on the slopes of Maunakea established in January 2001. The goats are free range and meet all production needs.
- Mauna Kea Moo (formerly Cloverleaf Dairy), is located on ‘Ō‘ōkala, Hawai‘i. It has been operating for about 13 years and is in the Livestock and Animal Specialties sector.
- Big Island Dairy is located in Hāmākua Coast Hawai‘i where all milk is locally produced and bottled fresh at the dairy.
- Surfing Goat Dairy a 42-acre dairy on Maui’s Haleakalā Crater in lower Kula, celebrates its 9-year award streak of producing Gourmet Goat Cheeses. It is one of only two goat dairies in the state, and is Certified Humane, meaning goats are housed appropriately and raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones.
- Naked Cow Dairy located in Waianae, Hawai‘i, is also the only dairy farm on O‘ahu. A dairy that values holistic cattle raising and produces gourmet cheeses and butters, Naked Cow Dairy raises cattle without the use of hormones or antibiotics and ensures cows are fed quality nutritious foods.