Ambercrombie Loses Kona Coffee

The islands of Hawaii have seen loss after loss. Hawaiians have watched as their economic value in the world has plummeted, with the removal of their revenue producing crops. We have seen this happen in numerous farms; in pineapple, sugar, and now coffee. Sugar, for instance, was grown a lot on the islands until Hawaii’s earnings dropped to miniscule amounts after mainland companies decided to grow sugar with cheaper labor. Countries in other parts of the world could produce sugar cheaper, and the quality product from Hawaii became less important. This resulted in huge losses for Hawaii, but now these islands are trying to move forward. Yet, there is a governor in Hawaii who is pushing Hawaii’s economy backwards. Governor Neil Abocrombie has been Hawaii’s governor since 2010. Recently, his choices as governor have stopped being the best decisions for the people of Hawaii, as well as Hawaii’s future as a whole. Following his advice will ruin the Kona Coffee name, it will lose jobs, and lose hope in Hawaii’s independent economy.
Kona Coffee is a name ensuring that the coffee you are drinking was grown on the Hawaiian islands. The environment of rich soil and exotic temperatures are what gives Kona Coffee its taste. In the past, the beans have gone through extensive inspection to ensure the beans’ quality. More importantly, this inspection would ensure that the beans were actually grown on hawaiian soil. If the beans could be grown anywhere, then cheaper labor could be found in another country. Cheaper foreign labor will, once again, force Hawaii to lose their income from specialty crops. Coffee beans that are grown on Hawaiian soil keep the profits of Kona Coffee on the islands and keep the Hawaiian economy growing. The money will give jobs to local farmers, it will keep the Kona name valued above all other coffee brand names. If only Hawaii could keep focused on the value of these local beans, then these islands would not have to go through another heartbreak of cheaper labor taking over Hawaiian industry and production. In the past, Hawaii’s farmers of pineapple and sugar were put out of business because of the cheaper labor costs in foreign countries. Del Monte ended its last pineapple crop in Hawaii in 2008 because “it can be produced much cheaper elsewhere in the world,” leaving seven hundred more workers without a job. Hawaii has already seen the loss of thousands of jobs from the loss of the sugar plantations and most of the pineapple plantations. In fact, “At its peak, pineapple employed close to 4,000 people and produced $107 million worth of crops” (Hawaii Business). It seems almost unbelievable that a Hawaii governor could watch another world renowned Hawaiian crop lose its prestige and value.  Yet, it seems that Governor Neil Abocrombie has done just that. He has decided to let coffee beans pass as certified Kona beans, when those beans are not grown in Hawaii. The Kona Coffee Farmer’s Association says that the Governor’s actions will “repeal the mandatory certification of coffee.” The governor’s action will lose money for Hawaiian farmers, and the profits for all of Hawaii, in the selling of Kona Coffee. Local farmers who grow coffee will lose their jobs, putting even more people into the unemployment office, that is already over capacity.
Governor Abocrombie had the opportunity to veto the bill, 280, that has upset the local coffee grower, and community of Hawaii. However, he chose to let the bill pass without his signature. This particular bill, summarized by the Hawaii Reporter, “removes the requirement that all Hawai’i-grown green coffee beans shall be inspected and certified by the Department of Agriculture.” Without the protection of inspection, how could their be protection from false labeling? The Kona name cannot be ensured and protected if there is no one checking the beans. The Governor has chosen quick money over local economic interests. Other countries can farm cheaper, so he will reduce labor costs quickly, but forget about how this will effect the Kona Coffee crops in the future. He is following mainland interests, that have caused Hawaiians to suffer the economic downfall after the losses of pineapple and sugar crops. Yet, his interests do have a legitimate reasoning behind them. Bringing in cheaper beans, means less of the profits from Kona beans must go to labor costs. Therefore, more money from Hawaii’s beans can go to the profits of the farmers, can build up Hawaii’s economy. In a way, the governor is looking out for his economy, but in a very shortsighted way. The governor is forgetting about his history, he is not learning from the mistakes that these islands have already had to deal with. There is still heartbreak from the loss of the sugar plantations, but the governor does not hear his people. He is not thinking about money in the future, only money today. If he was thinking for the future, then he would see that taking away the value of the certification of Kona Coffee, will eventually take away the value of the beans. Right now, the Kona coffee bean is the world’s most expensive coffee bean, because of its incredible taste, and its unique origin. Yet, there will be no prestige or value if the coffee bean no longer tastes any different from the daily value bean at your local super market. It would be easy for companies to slowly add more and more foreign beans to Kona Coffee. Many consumers will not know a difference in the taste because much of Kona coffee sales, for the mainland, are gifts or tourist souvenirs. Therefore, people who buy Kona coffee infrequently will not know what pure Kona Coffee tastes like. If Kona coffee gets all of its beans from a country like Columbia, for instance, why will it be any different from any other company that sells Columbia beans. It will not be any different. Eventually consumers will realize that there is no reason for them to spend the extra money on Kona beans. The Kona Coffee name will become invaluable, and even tourists will not look to buy it.
This is not the first time that the quality of Kona beans have been threatened. In the past, there was a coffee bean farmer who attempted fraud on the Kona Coffee Company, saying that he was selling the company beans that were grown in Hawaii, when the beans were actually grown in another country. This made it cheaper for the farmer, but it was a crime, a fraud of the Kona Coffee company. The law that Abocrombie set in place, allows these types of fraud happen more and more often. Now, the government actually approves of it, thanks to our governor who is supposedly for the people.
Even if Abocrombie does not want to support it, local farming has become important all over the United States. More and more people are buying local, and organic. For the consumer, buying local is ensuring where the products came from. The consumer can choose to buy products that are healthier, choosing quality over price. Plus, the consumer can choose to help local economies. This help will give jobs to people in the United States, as many in our nation are desperate for opportunities. Also, supporting local farmers is keeping the money in the country. Our country depends on foreign aid for most of our consumer products, which is pushing us deeper in debt. This leaves less money for improving the land we live on.
On a smaller scale, local farming is giving the Hawaiian economy the push it needs. All of the islands of Oceania are in need of a way to become independent from the mainlands. As money forces more and more of the local production to be extinguished, more of the islands lose their monetary gains. Local, organic farming, in Hawaii is unique. It makes for a product that the people want, but not when the product is a fraud. Local farming will not be valuable to Hawaii if consumers are not buying their product. Once Abocrombie law goes into effect, Hawaii will have to produce another specialty crop, like it had to after the loss of pineapple and sugar sales. The name, Kona, only has a value if the consumers can trust its product. The farmers can only can make money if the consumers to continue to buy the product. Yet, Abocrombie has failed at helping these local farmers. He may have began as a man who was for the people, promising to veto a law such as this one. Yet, the governor could not stand his ground, next to the power of the mainland money. As the Kona Coffee Farmer’s Association puts it, “This failure of political will represents the abandonment of consumer protection, the “Hawaii” brand and hundreds of small-scale Hawaiian farmers.” Hawaii needs a governor to look after the interests of the people of Hawaii, and since Abocrombie lacks the “political will” to do that, the people of Hawaii should elect a governor that will save Hawaii’s economy, and economic standing. 






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One Comment to “Ambercrombie Loses Kona Coffee”

  1. This is unbelievable. Marketing coffee to the public under the Kona name when it is not Kona coffee is lying to the consumer. Just as you say, there will be problems for Hawaii’s coffee industry when this happens. I don’t know how Abercrombie thinks that the profits from Hawaii’s coffee will remain the same. The price that the coffee is currently going for is going to drop if the quality is no longer there. After that profits are going to go right back to where they are now. Coffee farmers will only make more money until the taste buds of the public catch up. If the public realizes they are being duped then we are only as good as every other coffee farmer in the world. Makes we wonder, when I buy local is it really local?

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