by Robyn Labrador
The Hawaii Department of Agriculture and the Western U.S. Agricultural Trade Association obtained grant funds to conduct a market study of Hawaiian tropical plants for the Japanese market. The study concluded that opportunities exist for Hawaiian foliage producers who meet requirements for export certification.
Warren Kobatake of Pleasonton Corporation in Waimanalo is attempting to test the export waters in the next few months. Warren, who has obtained the necessary certification to enter the export market, offers this advice for other nurseries: "The biggest problem I see is getting all plants to pass their inspection. The buyers like quality plants and they have to pass Japanese agricultural inspection. That would be the biggest hurdle, so the growers have to bring up their quality and fix up their facilities to pass the inspection."
The Japan-Hawaii Certification protocol requires growers to meet sanitary and greenhouse conditions. The effort is worth it however because of the huge volume of business. Imports of plants totaled $51.8 million in 1993 for all categories and included cuttings and live plants.
Mature plants in highest demand include Pachira, Palms, Dracaena and Ficas. Demand also exists for Bucida buceras, Cycas circinalis, Hawaiian stripe bamboo, Podocarpus maki and gracilior, Ficas retusa "Nitida' and Ficas maclellanoli `Alii'. Tropical flowering plants such as Hibiscus, Ginger and orchids also represent market opportunities.
The study points out the long-term business perspective of the Japanese buyers so that local exporters can expect small orders to begin with until relationships are established. Buyers in Japan include importers who can market the product and advise on market conditions and demand; the larger nurseries who are interested in growers that produce Dracaena cane in quantity; and the large interior landscapers looking for specific plants.
For more information on Certification protocol and the market study, contact the Export Foliage Program to Japan, Hawaii Department of Agriculture at 973-9595.