Revitalizing the Hawaii banana industry

Revitalizing the Hawaii banana industry

Bananas are a vital staple of the Hawaiian diet. For decades, the local banana industry has been suffering from severe losses caused by the banana bunchy top virus (BBTV) and Panama wilt. To rebuild, farmers in Hawaii needed clean planting material free of diseases, best management practices and a strong statewide Extension education effort.

With the aid of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and University of Hawaii Agriculture Research Center, researchers jump-started a multifaceted strategy to manage BBTV via the distribution of tissue-cultured planting materials to statewide producers. Over 2,000 seedlings of a cultivar tolerant to BBTV and Panama wilt were distributed statewide. Twenty-five workshops (virtual and in-person) were conducted in conjunction with distribution to advance vector management. Advanced field trainings were held to show farmers how to collect clean young crop from their newly planted fields, test for BBTV using new technology and establish new crop lands to promote long-term sustainability of practices.

The state statistics on banana production and market analysis indicate that the farm gate value for Hawaii’s current fresh banana production was $5.6 million, a 22% increase from the previous year. On-island banana sales increased to 3.2 million pounds, 71% higher than in 2020. Testimonials from Oahu farmers indicated that grade A banana production was close to zero in 2019 due to the BBTV disease cycle. A cooperating farmer who reported zero harvest in 2019 harvested 30,385 pounds in 2021 and 50,068 pounds in 2022.

Statewide testimonials support the department of agriculture’s report that local banana production is rebounding.

Link to full statement on website: