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Sunday, February 1, 2004



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DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
At Marukai Market Place on Auahi Street, Joel Sakihara, a produce clerk, holds up local avocados. He said sales were very brisk. The Hawaii Avocado Association says the isles' avocado industry is small but growing again.



Avocado sales spike
for today’s big game

The Super Bowl generates
increased demand for the
guacamole ingredient


Pat Sinclair loves the Super Bowl.

But it's not just because he's a big football fan, it's also because of guacamole.

Sinclair distributes Hawaii-grown avocados to local stores and more avocados are consumed on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year.

Sales increase by about 10 percent during the week leading up to the game, said Sinclair, a Big Island wholesaler, who supplies about half of the state's yield.

Sinclair has gotten record orders from a number of Hawaii stores for today's game. Last week alone, he sold more than 20,000 avocados to Costco stores around the state.

Hawaii is in a unique position to capitalize on Super Bowl sales, Sinclair said, because the peak of avocado season here is in the winter.

California-grown avocados, which make up a little more than half of the fruit sold here, peak during the summer.

That means more Hawaii avocados are on the shelves of local grocers during the Super Bowl and their prices are usually comparable to mainland fruit, Sinclair said.

He also said chain stores, like Safeway and Foodland, are requesting Hawaii avocados more and more because of their winter growing season.

Roy Ishihara, a store manager at the Ward Farmer's Market, said he sees avocado sales soar just before the Super Bowl.

"Generally, we push out 20 pounds a day," he said, adding that he only sells locally grown fruit. "During this weekend, we might double or triple that amount."

The buying spike is welcome for an industry that has been active in the islands since the late 19th century but unable to compete with harvests in California and Mexico and, most recently, banned in the continental United States because of the state's fruit fly risk.

In 2001, there were about 140 farms in the islands that produced avocados and 360 acres were dedicated statewide to the fruit, according to Hawaii Avocado Association Secretary Brooks Wakefield.

The association was formed in the 1980s and represents Hawaii avocado growers, packers and distributors.

"It's a small industry. But it's growing again," Wakefield said. "People are more interested and more markets are opening. I think people (who) know what a good Hawaiian avocado is will buy a Hawaiian."

About 600,000 pounds of local avocados were sold to consumers in Hawaii and Canada during the 2001 season, up from a record low of 400,000 pounds in 1996, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The small portion of the state's avocados air freighted to Canada are considered gourmet and sold for triple the price of California-grown fruit, Sinclair said.

Most of the state's avocados are grown on the Big Island, though there are farms on Kauai, Maui and Oahu.

Wakefield, who co-owns Pea Nani Farm in south Kona, said she grows her avocados alongside mango and papaya. Many Hawaii avocado farmers do the same, treating the fruit as a secondary crop, she said.

Even so, when Wakefield goes to a Super Bowl party she's expected to bring the dip.

"We eat lots of guacamole," she said. "We usually bring guacamole to every party we go to."

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