Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Papaya, coffee and flower farmers join forces

Tribune-Herald staff writer
The Hawaii papaya industry has formed an alliance with the Hawaii Coffee Association and the Hawaii Floriculture and Nursery Association called the Synergistic Hawaii Agriculture Council, or SHAC, designed to promote Hawaii farm commodities in foreign and domestic markets by marketing and exporting them under a single “made-in-Hawaii” brand.
“Our ultimate goal is to get more professionally organized,” said Eric Tanouye, owner of Green Point Nursery and a driving force behind SHAC.
Tanouye said the papaya and coffee industries have a jump on the flowers and ornamental growers in their marketing abilities. “We’re newer, and most of our members are small growers,” he said, and much of the organizational work as an industry is done by volunteers, which hinders the continuity of programs and the long-term effectiveness of the organization.
“(SHAC) requires us to be more strategic with the marketing plan,” said Tanouye, who recently attended a mainland workshop learning how to “organize opportunities for positive interactions with the USDA and other organizations.”
“I think you’re going to find out that we are much more strategic and better organized,” he said. “We’ll be able to work better with the county and state on funding. It’s a constant process of applying, executing and reporting. We need a five-year plan. That’s the great thing SHAC is doing. We can play more professionally.
“Many growers have had to scale way back,” Tanouye said. “Volunteerism is diminishing, so we’re challenged to run the organization with paid personnel. We have very good, passionate volunteers but when they leave the organization stops.”
Tanouye hopes to be receiving USDA foreign agricultural service funding with SHAC’s help in 2013. “You have to have an international export focus” in order to get the funding. Seed money to get SHAC moving was provided by the papaya, flowers and coffee industry organizations.
“We really appreciate the support of the county mayors and county R&D offices, (and state Department of Agriculture Director) Kokubuns’ office,” Tanouye said. “We’re experiencing a really good relationship now. That’s our goal. Play together as a team.
“There’s a lot of program money available,” Tanouye said, as opposed to one-time grants.
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