Specialty store gives farmers opportunity
Whole Foods Market will open a store in Kakaako's Ward Village Shops.
WHOLE Foods Market's entry into Honolulu
is likely to bump up competition among groceries here, but because its products vary somewhat from usual supermarket fare it should not be too unsettling to the major retailers.
The new retailer will offer a diversity of foods and household and health products, but more importantly, a valuable opportunity for farmers as well as other Hawaii food-specialty businesses. Described as the nation's largest retailer of natural and organic foods, Whole Foods might open a window for distribution of island products through the grocer's mainland outlets.
Its presence could stimulate an increase in organic farming, which now makes up only 1 percent of overall farm production in the state, since the company is known for buying from small farmers for fresh quality and to support the local economy.
Such enterprises are necessary if Hawaii is to boost its agricultural revenues and move forward in growing more of its own food. As large plantation operations, like Del Monte's pineapple, shut down, unused prime agricultural lands become vulnerable to development.
David Cole, a chief executive of Maui Land & Pineapple Co., points out that Hawaii has 490,000 acres of land lying fallow while importing 90 percent of its food. That makes little sense not only economically but for the state's food-supply security, which so depends on uninterrupted shipping from elsewhere.
Cole, who the Star-Bulletin's Stewart Yerton reports was instrumental in bringing Whole Foods here, says the company could become a "market maker" for Hawaii food producers and farmers.
Diversified agriculture has seen steady growth in recent years, one of the few industries that add another alternative to reliance on tourism for revenue. Though Whole Foods is just one company, it is the kind of business that has the potential to take local outfits along for the ride to success.
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