Hawaii’s major pillars of economic support are tourism and U.S. defense activity. Hawaii has had a strong competitive advantage in these sectors thanks to its environmental beauty, historical sites and strategic location near the middle of the Pacific Ocean. A third pillar of support, agriculture, has faded in recent years. Both Sugar and Pineapple growing were strong contributors to the economy in the first three quarters of the 20th century, but have since declined sharply as low‐wage foreign competition has overcome Hawaii’s productivity and quality advantages in these crops
The major declining sector has been plantation agriculture, namely sugar and pineapple growing and processing. For instance in 1970, Hawaii produced about 10.5 million tons of raw sugar valued at about $451 million adjusted to 2006‐valued dollars. By 2006, sugar production had fallen to 1.6 million tons with a value of about $50 million. Likewise the pineapple industry produced 954,000 tons of fruit in 1970 worth about $161 million when converted to 2006 dollars. By 2006 production had fallen to 185,000 tons with a value of $74 million.
Over the last several years cut backs and closures have continued in both sugar and pineapple growing. Today the largest growing activity in Hawaii agriculture is biotech oriented, seed corn research. A handful of operations have found Hawaii to be an ideal site for the development of new varieties of corn. The Hawaii Department of Agriculture estimates the value of seed corn growing at $169 million in the 2008/09 growing season, more than double the value from the 2005/06. It represented about one‐third the value of all crops grown in the state in 2008/09.
Source: 2010 the Hawaii Statewide Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) – Prefinal