Tuesday, September 14, 1999

Big Isle nut grower to lose
$2 million due to drought

Star-Bulletin staff


HONOMALINO, Hawaii -- South Kona macadamia nut grower MacFarms of Hawaii stands to lose about 40 percent of its production valued at $2 million this year due to drought, President Rick Vidgen says.

In the last 21 months, the area has received only about 20 percent of its normal rainfall, he said.

"It's a real disaster for all of us -- our company and our workers. Even the surrounding ohia forest has dried up from the lack of water," Vidgen said. "It's a fairly grim situation."

The company is doing its best to limit the impact on its workers, he said. Most of about 25 permanent field workers will not be affected.

The full 120-person nut-picking force will be employed, but its work will be cut from the normal six to nine months down to about four months, he said.

About 30 of the 80-member factory workers were not rehired this season, he said.

The bad effects are being felt at a time in which heavy foreign competition has driven down prices, Vidgen said.

The long-term solution is a new well for the area which would cost about $2.5 million, he said.

The company hopes to get financing from the U.S. Depart\South Kona Irrigation Cooperative, which Mac Farms helped create.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka also is working to change federal laws to permit the Federal Bureau of Reclamation to provide assistance, Vidgen said.

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