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Tuesday, March 28, 2000

Flowers top state’s
diversified rankings

Waimanalo growers in bloom

By Peter Wagner


Flowers were a $72.5 million business in Hawaii in 1998, the most recent figures from the state Department of Agriculture.

Art Those farm-sales figures, up 9 percent from the year before, put flowers and nursery products at the top of the state's rankings of diversified agriculture outside of sugar and pineapple.

Vegetables, next in the rankings, were worth about $49 million, followed by macadamia nuts, milk, seed crops, coffee, fruit, cattle, aquaculture, eggs, hogs and other crops contributing to total sales of $329 million in 1998.

More than half of flower sales -- $38.4 million -- came from the Big Island, where land is cheaper and more easily available than other neighbor islands. Oahu registered sales of $23.9 million in 1998, about a third of the total, followed by Maui with $8.8 million and Kauai with $1.4 million.

The figures show strong growth on all islands except Kauai, where flower sales fell 24 percent, state figures show.

Statewide, there were 745 plant nurseries operating in 1998, up from 670 the year before. Some 355 of them were on the Big Island, 205 on Oahu, 145 on Maui and 40 on Kauai.

On Oahu, a major enclave of nursery farms is in Waimanalo, thought to have more than 50 nurseries large and small.

Anthurium, the state's leading cut flower, showed a 9 percent decline in 1998, due to falling prices combined with stagnant sales, agriculture department officials say. Orchid sales were up 3 percent.

More recent figures from the DOA show a thriving poinsettia trade last year, with 346,000 pots, up 15 percent from 1998.

A major segment of the state's foliage industry has been the export market, largely controlled by Big Island growers. Year-round growing conditions and a booming mainland economy have fed growing exports -- $50 million in 1998 with 3.8 million plants exported.

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