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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 2, 2006

Rain, pests and disease shrink taro production to record low

By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer

The massive heart-shaped leaves of taro plants are part of the lush Manoa landscape at the University of Hawai'i. Taro crops last year yielded 4 million pounds, a 19 percent drop.

MARCO GARCIA | Associated Press

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Production of taro in 2005 fell to the lowest level since officials started tracking it in 1946.

Last year's crop fell 19 percent to 4 million pounds, according to figures released yesterday by the Hawaii Agricultural Statistics Service. The previous record low of 5 million pounds was set in 2003.

Production of taro or kalo in the Hawaiian language was down because of untimely rainy weather. Apple snail infestations and taro pocket rot and leaf blight also cut down yields.

Taro for processing, which is used in poi, a staple of the Hawaiian diet, fell 24 percent to 3.9 million pounds. Taro sold for fresh use was estimated at 100,000 pounds, unchanged from 2004.

The overall farm price for poi and Chinese taro remained unchanged at 54 cents a pound in 2005, which matched a record high set in 2002. The farm value of all types of taro sales was $2.2 million last year, which was down 23 percent from 2004 and the lowest annual total since 1989, when the industry posted $2 million in revenues.

Reach Sean Hao at shao@honoluluadvertiser.com.