w Editor’s note: This is the seventh installment of an eight-part series diving into the county’s efforts for economic recovery.
LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i Economic Recovery Strategy Team dedicated to the agriculture sector will attempt to revitalize agriculture businesses that experienced financial loss from the COVID-19 pandemic.
County Office of Economic Development Agriculture Specialist Martin Amaro specified areas of interest that will be the focus on for rebuilding agriculture: retail and food service, food-distribution programs and shipping issues as the agri-business section starts ramping up exports to world markets.
The focus isn’t on just reopening the economy for agriculture businesses, but also doing it safely, Amaro said.
“We want all of our citizens to reach some level of normalcy for themselves and their families,” Amaro said. “Moving forward, we will all have to maintain our resiliency and be prepared to make adjustments in our personal and business lives, including agricultural producers, to face down any threats which may resurface.”
The KERST plan calls for the creation of a multi-modal communication and information system so that farmers, ranchers, fishers, etc., receive current, important information in a timely manner.
This allows agricultural individuals time to apply for federal and state financial assistance before deadlines, for example.
They will also be creating solutions for pandemic-related shipping issues as agribusinesses begin to resume sending exports of Kaua‘i products to world markets and receive shipments of valuable commodities necessary for daily operations.
According to Amaro, the county farmers, ranchers and ocean harvesters are encouraged to plan out and expand their scope of business or modify operating models to adjust to changing market conditions.
The KERST plan will help strategize for expected healthy competition among producers and operating at a much smaller capacity. This includes plans to reopen the Sunshine Markets with social distancing, the wearing of masks and hand-sanitizer stations.
It was also recommended that a consultant be hired to start an updated advertising campaign for buying local.
The county wants to maintain COVID-19-generated business, such as CSA (community-sourced agriculture) boxes and food-distribution programs, while attempting to restart sales with pre-pandemic and food-service accounts as they open, which include farmers’ markets and restaurants.
The KERST plan addresses the issue of ranchers dealing with low mainland calf prices for animals sent for finishing and processing, and the lack of enough cattle to complete a load. The plan calls for finding and developing on-island companies for finishing, processing and packaging.
The plan also calls for a new distribution market to open which will give the community naturally raised Kaua‘i beef. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the agriculture industry had faced an economic crisis from tropical storms, flooding, drought, off-shore competition and hurricanes.
“Kaua‘i’s farmers, ranchers and ocean harvesters are inherently resilient and resourceful,” Amaro said. “It is woven into what they do. Most of our agricultural community has continued nurturing their businesses throughout the pandemic, and are engaging with multiple distribution points, traditional and non-traditional, to make a sustainable recovery.”
Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or email@example.com.