Richard Ha writes:
Aloha Airlines—which has flown all of us between the Hawaiian Islands since 1946—terminates their passenger service today, after filing for bankruptcy protection 10 days ago. We knew the airline was in trouble, but we never expected it would come to this.
Talk about coming to grips with reality. Kimo and I had a meeting with our fertilizer distributor a few days ago, who told us that fertilizer prices have gone up again. Just by itself this fact would not be especially worrisome. But nitrogen fertilizer prices are related to energy prices, and energy prices are likely to keep rising as far into the future as we can see.
The distributor told us some farmers are actually dipping into their savings to buy fertilizer. Not only nitrogen fertilizer, but potassium fertilizer is also rising in price.
It rains a lot here on the east side of the Big Island; maybe 140 inches in an average year. Quite often the fertilizers we surface apply are washed away. With fertilizer prices continuing to rise, it’s just a matter of time before we will not be able to afford broadcasting fertilizer in this manner.
Then he told us that Roundup, the main herbicide we use for our banana operation, has doubled in price. We use Roundup to control the weeds in more than 400 acres of bananas.
Have you noticed there are less abandoned cars now than there used to be? I’m told that tow truck operators are finding that scrap metal prices make it worth their while to haul abandoned vehicles away. Someone told me that one catalytic converter is worth $125.
That’s the other side of the phone call that I got last week asking if I wanted to order more growing houses, because steel prices are going up.
Weyerhaeuser, the corrugated box manufacturing company on O‘ahu, closed a couple of weeks ago. More than half of Hawaii’s agricultural products were packed in Weyerhaeuser boxes. WE used their boxes for many years.
Last week I saw in the paper last week that O’Keefe Bakery here in Hilo is being badly affected by this record increase in electricity costs.
Most of the electricity here on the Big Island is generated using oil. I was told that rising plastic plate costs are hurting Mom & Pop plate lunch places, which cannot raise their prices enough to cover the increase. Plastic is, of course, a byproduct of petroleum.
And medical costs are rising as well. HMSA, which provides health insurance to more than half of Hawai‘i's population, just announced a substantial price hike in its rates.
It is very sobering to see these cost increases going on all around us.
Most worrisome to me is that farmers cannot control their prices. We are told all the time that farmers are not price makers—they are price takers. In other words, they merely take the price that wholesalers or retailers give them.
We know what is happening. We live in a finite world, and resources are limited. Do we just sit in the pot and watch ourselves cook?