Hawaii aquaculture sales total $66.4M, down 15% from 2019

  • A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Friday said the value of farm-raised marine animals sold by producers statewide slipped 15% last year to $66.4 million from $78.5 million the year before. (Jeff Milisen via Kampachi Farms LLC/NELHA/Special to West Hawaii Today)

The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have taken a bite out of Hawaii aquaculture sales in 2020 with figures down double digits from 2019.

A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Friday said the value of farm-raised marine animals sold by producers statewide slipped 15% last year to $66.4 million from $78.5 million the year before.

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While some growth was notched in the areas of algae and ornamentals, the “other” category, which comprises various aquaculture products including finfish and shellfish, saw sales decline dramatically to the tune of 43.5% to $30.1 million from a record $43.2 million in 2019, according to the USDA report. The category accounts for about 45% of the state’s total aquaculture sales.

The report, which is based on a survey of aquaculture businesses carried out with assistance from the state Department of Agriculture, said some of the producers reported shipping and labor issues due to the pandemic. Peak payroll was at 344 workers in 2020, down from 369 the year prior.

“The pandemic resulted in a decrease in sales for some segments in the industry, but others were less impacted,” the USDA report reads.

Farms that raise marine algae mostly to produce nutritional supplements fared better with sales up by 0.3% to $32.7 million in 2020 from $32.6 million the year before, according to the report. Algae production accounted for nearly half of aquaculture sales in the state.

Cyanotech Corporation, which produces microalgae-based, high-value nutrition and health dietary supplement products at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in Kailua-Kona, reported on June 22 its financial results for fiscal year 2021, which ended March 31.

The company reported net sales of $32.34 million, up 1.4% from $31.89 million in fiscal year 2020. Gross profit was dropped to $11.17 million from $12.7 million.

“Net sales increased slightly over the prior year, however, gross profit was negatively impacted by higher spirulina costs per kilo driven by lower production volumes. We generated $2.4 million in cash from operations, deleveraged the balance sheet by $1.7 million, and increased our capital investments including the installation of a new tablet press,” CEO Gerald R. Cysewski, Ph.D. said of the fiscal year results in a prepared release.

Cysewski added the company was declared an “essential business” in Hawaii and California, allowing it to remain at full operations during the pandemic. He also thanked employees for remaining committed to the company.

For the first quarter of fiscal year 2022, which ended June 30, the company reported better figures, according to an Aug. 11 news release. Net sales were at $8.96 million, up $1.61 million from the same three-month period in fiscal 2021. During the quarter, gross profit was $3.7 million, up 40.5% from $2.97 million.

“We had a good start to the year with strong sales and an improvement in gross profit margin. Climatic conditions were generally stable during the first quarter on Hawaii Island, and we saw cultivation and production metrics above trend,” said Cysewski about the first quarter results in a prepared release.

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According to the USDA report released Friday, the “ornamentals” category contributed $3.6 million in total sales in 2020, up from $2.6 million in 2019.

The report issued Friday also included revised data for 2019 indicating, without explanation, there were $4.76 million fewer sales in the “other” category, dropping the record-breaking year of sales in 2019 from $83.2 million to $78.5 million, which still surpassed the previous record of $78.2 million in sales in 2014.

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