Friday 08 December 2023

Hawaii’s coffee industry sees drop in value

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Hawaii’s most recent annual coffee harvest wasn’t as bad as previously estimated, but it was still down from the prior season, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. The value of the state’s coffee crop totaled $54.2 million in the 2015-2016 season, down 14 percent, or $8 million, from $62.6 million in the previous season, the report said.

In February the USDA made a preliminary estimate that the industry’s crop value last season was $49.2 million.

The new final estimate included higher production volume offset somewhat by a lower average price.

Coffee production in the revised report totaled 36.6 million pounds last season, close to the 36.8 million pounds produced the season before.

The average price per pound was $1.56, down from $1.72 in the same period a year ago.

However, farmers didn’t sell about 1.7 million pounds of harvested coffee, which reduced the value of last season’s crop.

USDA said bad weather and damage from a pest called the coffee berry borer hurt production.

“CBB (coffee berry borer) remains a concern for the industry, though controlling measures are showing signs of progress,” the report said.

Bad weather included heavy rain last summer that knocked flowers off coffee trees and reduced fruiting.

The new report, however, also noted that farmers managed to get more beans per acre, which helped keep production about flat last season compared with the prior season.

The USDA bases its estimates on surveys of coffee farmers on Oahu, Hawaii island, Maui, Molokai and Kauai. Though coffee is harvested year-round in Hawaii, the season is defined as starting in late summer and extending to early the following year.

Comparing coffee industry production and values beyond the last two seasons cannot be fairly done because the USDA changed how it measures coffee production, prices and value.

The USDA now measures coffee production, prices and value by cherry coffee, which is the bean still covered by its fruit when picked from trees.

Prior to the last two seasons, the agency measured parchment coffee, or beans covered by a fibrous membrane after the fruit has been removed. Removing the membrane leaves green coffee beans that can then be roasted.

Hawaii coffee farmers sell their beans in all three forms — cherry, parchment and green — though most sell cherry coffee. Prior reports converted everything to parchment equivalents, which didn’t reflect the size of the coffee crop before processing.

Measuring cherry coffee production and prices gives a truer value of the crop as more farms have begun milling and selling green beans, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

Removing the fruit and membrane also adds to the price farmers receive for their crop.

One major revision in the latest report compared with the preliminary report in February was the average price per pound farmers received for green coffee.

The new report said the price was $10.17 instead of $15.24 reported in February. The prior season’s price for green coffee was $12.55

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