Originally published April 23 2007
Hawaiian macadamia nut farmers face economic devastation due to false labeling of imported mac nuts as "Hawaiian"
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor
Macadamia nuts are one of my favorite foods for providing health-enhancing oils. They're rich in monounsaturated fats and contain many other phytonutrients that contribute to human health. I think that eating handful of macadamia nuts a day is a great way to control blood sugar, satiate your appetite and boost your nutrition.
One of the best regions in the world in which to grow macadamia nuts is Hawaii, but the industry there is about to be devastated, and in another five years it may not exist at anywhere near the same level it does today. Sadly, thousands of acres of macadamia nut trees, along with the farmers who tend them, could be economically wiped out. Given that macadamia nut trees take about seven years to produce their very first nut and 15 years to reach maturity, this is not an industry that can recover overnight.
There are many issues contributing to this coming collapse of Hawaii's mac nut industry, but one of the worst is the fact that macadamia nut processors physically located in Hawaii can import macadamia nuts from other countries (most notably Australia) but label them as 100 percent Hawaiian macadamia nuts. It is not illegal to do so, even though it is deceptive to consumers.
As the Dallas Business Journal reports, "Sources in the macadamia nut industry on the Big Island say that some companies, notably Hershey-owned Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp., add non-Hawaiian mac nuts to Mauna Loa products sold on the Mainland."
You didn't know Hershey's was involved in the macadamia nut business, did you? They've bought out many farms and now virtually monopolize the processing and packaging of mac nuts on the Big Island. Since big business is now dominating the macadamia nut industry, we can only expect the deceptions to get even worse. Big business often seems to be all about exploiting consumers and squeezing every last dime it can out of a resource in order to maximize profits, even if it means destroying an industry and the farmers that go along with it, and that's what we are seeing in the Hawaiian macadamia nut industry today.
My research for writing this article, by the way, comes from talking directly to macadamia nut farmers. I conducted in-depth interviews with three mac nut farmers, and spoke casually to another five. One mac nut farmer I interviewed finally gave up in disgust, sold his farm and left the Big Island altogether. His operation was ultimately destroyed by two things: 1) The big business domination of the mac nut industry and the economic destruction of the small farmer (the big mac nut processors on the island simply stopped buying mac nuts from local farmers, since they could buy cheaper mac nuts from Australia and label them "Hawaiian"), and 2) The massive meth problem on the Big Island, which lead to repeated property theft from his mac nut farm. Meth heads actually stole his farm equipment and tools, and the local cops seemed remarkably uninterested in solving the case.
This is one of those stories you'll probably never hear in the mainstream media. The Hawaii press isn't interesting in printing anything strongly negative about the macadamia nut industry for obvious reasons. Plus, the big business macadamia nut processors are highly influential in the economic and political circles in Hawaii. At the same time, Hawaii doesn't really want to talk about its meth problem because the truth about Hawaii's unprecedented drug abuse problem scares away tourists.
Since a huge portion of the Hawaiian economy is based on tourism, too many political leaders in Hawaii stick their heads in the ground and try to pretend there isn't really much of a meth problem at all. Meanwhile, it's eating away at an entire generation of native Pacific Islanders who are on the verge of losing their children to a massive wave of drug-motivated crime and despair. That's the true story of what's happening with meth on the Big Island, but you won't see that emblazoned on a post card from Hawaii.
No requirement for honest labeling of mac nutsGetting back to the details of the mac nut industry, there is currently no law requiring that macadamia nuts be accurately labeled with a country of origin. That is quite interesting, given that there are such laws on things like olive oil and that there is a qualitative difference between macadamia nuts grown in Hawaii versus other countries. In my opinion, Hawaiian macadamia nuts are tastier, more nutritious, and higher quality than the mass-produced nuts imported from Australia (perhaps Australian mac nuts are great in Australia because they keep the good ones for themselves!).
There's (finally!) an effort underway to end the macadamia nut false labeling that's going on today. Hawaii House Bill 1628, sponsored by Rep. Bob Herkes, D-Puna-N. Kona, would require that mac nut packaging clearly state the percentage of nuts grown in Hawaii. That would be a first for the industry which, so far, has openly allowed mac nut processors to deceive consumers by labeling imported nuts as "Hawaiian."
Hawaii is a pristine environment in which to grow nuts, coffee, kava kava or practically anything. It's free of the typical shoreline pollution that you might find in other agricultural regions. It has outstanding natural resources in terms of sunlight, fresh water and fresh air, and it offers an ideal climate for growing foods of high nutritional density. That includes not only macadamia nuts, but superfoods like spirulina (which is grown by the Cyanotech corporation, also located on the Big Island).
I support small, local farmers in every agricultural region, including Hawaii. Supporting small mac nut farmers in Hawaii is important to us all because it helps keep a steady flow of nutritious foods coming our way while allowing the small farmers living on Hawaii to make an honest living. (And for those NaturalNews readers living in Australia, I strongly support your own local farmers, too. If you live in Australia, support your local farmer. Buy local, wherever you live!)
For those North Americans reading this, I urge you to buy only Hawaiian-grown macadamia nuts. One company I recommend is called South Kona Macs (www.SouthKonaMacs.com). They grow macadamia nuts on the big island near a town called Captain Cook. Although the nuts are not certified organic, the owners of the farm informed me they don't use any chemical herbicides or pesticides, and they keep the mac nut farm is a very natural state (I've visited the farm twice and saw it myself).
South Kona Macs has over 350 macadamia nut trees, and they harvest and process them in a unique way using their own special nut cracking and drying technology. It's the lowest temperature drying technology on the island, and the dried mac nuts come out as close to raw as you can possibly get in a dried mac nut. The only thing better is a nut right off the tree.
So if you really love macadamia nuts and you want the real thing -- nuts that taste great and have been dried and packaged in a way that preserves the healthy oils and the nutritional content -- get your macadamia nuts from South Kona Macs. Even if you don't especially like macadamia nuts, you may want to try these nuts anyway: they're in a different quality class than typical mac nuts.
South Kona Macs also offers macadamia nut oil and macadamia nut butter, both of which are quite delicious. You'll even find tamari flavored mac nuts in their online store (I didn't particularly like the tamari flavor, however. I think mac nuts taste just right the way nature delivers them).
Direct sales keep small farmers in businessIn many agricultural areas, the small, local farmer is increasingly dependant on direct-to-consumer sales to remain in business. Selling mac nuts (or almost any other agricultural commodity, actually) to mega-business food corporations is a fast track to personal bankruptcy. Right now, in fact, when Hawaiian mac nut processors even offer to buy the nuts from local farmers, the dollar amount offered amounts to a net loss to the farmer. The small guys can only stay in business by selling direct to consumers.
That's why I say don't buy your mac nuts from a big, brand-name food company. Buy 'em directly from the people who grow them. My advice is the same for other specialty food items. Buy wine from the wineries, buy cacao from a farmer-owned cooperative, and seek out ways to get your food, clothing, personal care products and other items from a source that actually supports local farmers rather than driving them into bankruptcy.
Many macadamia nut farms in Hawaii that used to exist five years ago just gave up and either sold their farms to the large nut processing companies like Hershey's or turned them into coffee farms in order break even. Some of the farms opened up bed-and-breakfasts to try to rent out their rooms just to make ends meet. Times are tough, and the centralization of power in the mac nut industry is only making things tougher.
Recently, the big food companies were only paying about 70 cents a pound to the Hawaiian farmers for their raw, unshelled macadamia nuts. That's 70 cents a pound for a nut that you might pay $15.00 a pound for at the grocery store (after it's shelled, of course). The farmer can't even make ends meet at that price, and in some years, that price plummets to 30 cents a pound, or even less than 10 cents a pound.
There is a great disparity between the prices that the farmers are paid for the nuts versus what consumers are paying for them. All that profit goes to the big corporations that monopolize the processing and the retailing of these products, leaving the local mac nut farmer out to dry. That's why we should buy these macadamia nuts directly. Support your local farmer, and keep the big food corporations out of the transaction.
The end of Hawaii's mac nut industry?If something doesn't change in Hawaii soon, its local farmer mac nut industry could be all but wiped out in a matter of years. Perhaps in as few as two years, you may witness a devastation of the macadamia nut industry, to be replaced by factory farms, massive use of chemical pesticides, labor violations for the workers, and everything else that goes with corporate control of the food supply.
So if you wish to support this industry, I encourage you to buy directly from these farmers. I've already recommended South Kona Macs (www.SouthKonaMacs.com), and I give their operation five stars for honesty, ethics and outstanding mac nuts.
Another operation worth supporting is Purdy's Macadamia Nut Farm, located on the small island of Molokai. I flew to Molokai and interviewed Purdy himself, who gives daily tours of his mac nut farm to visitors. You'll find his site at http://molokai-aloha.com/macnuts/
Neither one of these sites has any sort of sophisticated e-commerce system. You have to order the nuts by phone or mail. It's cumbersome, but it's worth it. Order several pounds at a time to make it worth your while. (My last order from South Kona Macs was for 35 pounds of mac nuts. I give some away to friends and family. A pound of raw mac nuts from the Big Island of Hawaii makes a great gift!) Remember the time difference if you call: Hawaii is two or three hours behind California time, so don't call these folks at five in the morning Hawaii time, please.
I regret that I cannot list all the other deserving mac nut farmers in Hawaii. There are many others, but that is way beyond the scope of this article. Remember: I get paid nothing to recommend these companies, and I paid for all the travel on my own dime. As this is a non-profit endeavor on my part to cover the mac nut industry, I simply do not have the resources to put together a full consumer guide on every farm that sells mac nuts in Hawaii. I just know that quality (and ethics) vary widely. If you purchase mac nuts from anybody, be sure to ask these questions:
1) Does your farm use Roundup or other chemical herbicides or pesticides? Do not purchase nuts from farms that use such chemicals.
2) What is the maximum temperature your mac nuts are exposed to during drying? (The lower the temperature, the better. Most farms dry their nuts by roasting them, which of course "cooks" the nut and destroys some of its nutritional value.)
Enjoy your mac nuts! I hope to bring you more articles about health products from Hawaii, including noni, spirulina, kava kava and even a story about how the war on marijuana has caused an escalation in the use of meth on across the islands. Stay tuned to NaturalNews for more honest, independent reporting on topics like these.
If you know of another good mac nut farm that consumers may want to contact, you may list their URL in the comments section of this article. (Please do!)
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