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Value of seed companies in isles continues to grow


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POSTED: Friday, July 10, 2009

Hawaii's seed-crop industry is experiencing exponential growth and serves as one of the few stable sectors for jobs in the state, according to a new economic study released yesterday by the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association.

In “;Hawaii's Seed Crop Industry: Current and potential economic and fiscal contributions,”; Thomas Loudat and Prehlad Kasturi, the study's authors, conclude that despite major financial setbacks felt by numerous businesses across the state, the value of seed companies has continued to steadily grow since the industry sprouted roots in Hawaii more than 40 years ago.

Hawaii's seed-crop industry is represented by 45 companies, some of which operate farms or other facilities on Oahu, Kauai, Molokai and Maui. These companies employ almost 2,000 people throughout the state and collectively generate $13.8 million per year in tax revenue.

Crops cultivated by farms in the Hawaii seed-crop include corn, soybean, wheat and sunflower.

Farmers in Hawaii employ both conventional and biotech plant-breeding methods to grow seed crops.

The primary seed crop grown in Hawaii is corn, all of which is exported to North and South America for further development and then worldwide distribution.

“;When I think about an industry that is providing stable jobs for state residents and continuing to grow during this tough recession, the only one that comes to mind is the seed-crop industry,”; said Adolph Helm, a Molokai farmer and president of HCIA. “;Seed companies are weathering the recession well and contributing real value to Hawaii's economy.”;

Commissioned by the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, the report's conclusions are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Statistics Service.

Among the report's highlights:

» The total value of Hawaii's seed crops rose from $450,000 in 1968 to $146 million in 2008 — an average annual gain of 14.2 percent.

» Seed companies in the state directly and indirectly generate more than $341 million in expenditures, including $53 million in salaries outside the industry.

» Hawaii seed companies employ 1,863 individuals, 1,065 of whom are full time. Since 2006 the industry has seen job growth increase by 73 percent. The number of full-time jobs has increased 268.5 percent in the last three years. In comparison, employment in Hawaii's agricultural sector overall has fallen 16.7 percent during this time.

» Hawaii's seed-crop industry needs highly skilled workers in science and research. Just more than 14 percent of seed industry jobs are in these areas, compared with the statewide average of 5.2 percent across all sectors.

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On the Net: » www.hciaonline.com