Nearly 80% of Hawaii's papaya farms destroyed by lava

KITV - June 8, 2018
Brenton Awa

The Leilani Estates eruption is also affecting farmers in lower Puna.

The Hawaii Farm Bureau's latest estimate is that nearly 80 percent of all papaya grown in the state comes from the Kapoho area. Now much of it is gone.

Hundreds of farming jobs could be in jeopardy as lava continues to threaten lower Puna.

2,200 acres of land where papaya once thrived has been destroyed. Hawaii Island with just 300 acres of papaya lands remaining.

According to the State Department of Agriculture, the rest of the islands combined have about 300 acres as well.

Senator Mike Gabbard says the situation heartbreaking.

"The 316 papaya farms across the state, over half of them are on Hawaii island, and now just to see that on the evening news, it's really hard to put into words what these guys are experiencing," Gabbard said.

The Hawaii Farm Bureau called this area near Kapoho the Breadbasket of the papaya industry. Many small businesses rely on production.

The Department of Agriculture estimated half of the industry's jobs will be impacted. The state says there's no telling how many farmers will choose to re-start operations after some lost everything.
"I heard a report recently that papaya prices are going to be doubling in the very near future and people just have to come to grips with the reality of what's going to be happening here right now," Gabbard said.

The state reminds all affected farmers of its recently approved emergency loan program, where businesses can apply for up to $500,000 at an interest rate of 3 percent.
Farmers would also be able to hold off on loan payments until they're back in production.