Despite an increased number of farms and acreage, coffee production on the Big Island of Hawaii was off by about 3% in the 2007 season. I find it interesting that the Pacific Business News prefers to look at the “glass is half full” side of this story, emphasizing that the number of farms and acreage increased.

USDA statistics confirm that yields per acre have been dropping since information was first recorded; averaging 2,000 to 3,000 lbs per acre in the 1950s to 1,000 lbs to 2,000 lbs today.

The lower yield may have come from changing climate conditions, from increased volcanic activity or even changing labor laws, but rather, I see it as the continuation of a trend toward lower productivity — largely resulting from a growing number of hobby farms and an aging population of subsistence farmers.

Big Island coffee farms are growing in number and expanding in size despite a slight production decline in the last reporting season.

The number of coffee farms increased this year from 775 to 790, harvesting a total of 3,000 acres.

Production was off 3 percent, or about 100,000 pounds, in the 2007-2008 season compared to the 2006-2007 season.