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O?ahu Orchid Industry in Decline



Today officially marks the first day of spring equinox and we dig in on our Hawaii Garden segment to look at the future of orchids. Should we be worried about the decline of the industry?


Robert Speer, the president of the Kunia Orchid Society, stopped by our studios to talk up not just one, but two club shows happening on O?ahu this weekend.

Statewide the production of flowers and other nursery products are worth more than $77 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Orchids make up almost 20 percent of that value.

But the state’s orchid industry has been struggling in recent years.

"The state of orchids is declining," Speer said. "It’s sad to notice but it's consistent with a lot of the ag industry issues, trying to diversify agriculture."

Ten years ago, Speer said there were 20 or so growers in orchild production  to sell.

"...Today we have between eight and 10 on O?ahu, and in another six, eight, or 10 years there may not be any because all of the growers are just aging and we're not seeing younger generations come in to take over those businesses."

Hawai?i's orchid production has been declining since 2014.

The majority of cultivation takes place on Hawai?i Island. According to Speer, almost one-third of orchid growers on Hawaii Island were destroyed by last year’s volcanic activity.

Still, there will be several orchid shows happening in the coming weeks, including these two:

  • The Kunia Orchid Show and Plant Sale begins Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Leilehua High School. It continues Saturday and Sunday with 11 vendors and eight displays by members of various orchid societies.  
  • The Windward Oahu Spring Orchid Show is marking its 39th year. It also runs Friday to Sunday.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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