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President’s Message to 2021 Annual Membership Meeting

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It is my honor to welcome all members of the HPIA to our annual membership meeting. My duty as President and our duty as Board Members is to navigate a continually changing environment and adapt our strategies to help our growers make money. Years 2020 and 2021 have been difficult and stressful for our society and for our industry. The State of Hawaii has been under a State of Emergency since early 2020. Lockdowns, travel restrictions and other measures have dramatically affected our industry. The very fact that this meeting is on zoom verses in person is evidence of our changed environment. My point is that producing and selling papaya from Hawaii must adapt to this changing business environment if we are to survive and thrive.

In 2021 HPIA adapted to a changing environment by fundamentally changing our dues structure. Because the 20 year patent for the Rainbow papaya expired, HPIA no longer has the exclusive right to produce Rainbow Papaya seed. In response, HPIA educated our members how to correctly produce their own Rainbow seed and HPIA has provided genetic material in order to preserve the integrity of the Rainbow variety and preserve its effectiveness against PRV. Additionally, HPIA no longer has the ability to attract members or generate revenue from our exclusive right to produce and sell Rainbow seed. HPIA changed its dues structure in 2021. We changed our dues structure from voluntary contributions based on a percentage of sales in favor of a fixed annual dues; $100 per year for growers, $250 per year for handlers, and $350 for supporting members. This dramatically reduced the revenue available to the organization and we needed to reduce our expenditures accordingly. In 2021 HPIA let our our office staff go and closed our office to regular office hours. This change saved over $70,000 per year. With our current dues structure and membership roster the HPIA now has a balanced budget.

My goal as President is to promote an inclusive and transparent association to help our grower members make a good living for themselves and their families. In early 2021 our board of directors had only two members, Eric Weinert and Ken Ogawa. Ken is our current treasurer and our books are open to all board members for inspection. In mid 2021 Chantal Vos and Toshi Aioki joined the Board. Our current membership has 60 grower members, 4 handlers members and 1 supporting member. Today we will elect new board members. I encourage everyone to participate. Board members must attend 4 board meetings per year. More importantly we have no paid staff, so no one to do our work for us. If someone wants the HPIA to do something, then it is incumbent on that person to do the work. Build consensus, lead the charge, and the HPIA will support you.

Why is it important to support HPIA? We must work cooperatively to have an organization that can respond to any future adverse event. HPIA is a unified organization for the Hawaii Papaya Industry. Historically HPIA has overcome the Papaya Ringspot virus, a County of Hawaii amendment to prohibit growing GM crops in Hawaii County and other direct challenges. As a unified organization, HPIA has the ability to work with State and Federal government and agencies to solve industry problems and challenges. HPIA has worked with PBARC over the past several years participating with and funding multiple studies to get our GM variety of papaya approved by the Chinese regulatory agricultural agencies. We are now working to get a Bilateral agreement between the US and China so that Hawaii papaya growers can export our papaya to China.

HPIA works with SHAC (Shared Hawaii Agricultural Commodities) to promote papaya. SHAC is Coffee, Floral Industry, MacNuts, and Papaya working together. That partnership leverages our ability to get State and Federal help when we have problems. Additionally, SHAC works to obtain MAP funds to promote our products in foreign markets where our funds are leveraged 10 to 1. HPIA had over $90,000 allocated for marketing papaya in Japan. However, those monies have lapsed. The SHAC Board required a marketing study prior any further expenditures of MAP funds in Japan. Interaction and communication regarding that marketing study has not occurred. The project using MAP funds in Canada have been very successful. In 2019 MAP funds were used to promote Hawaii papaya and our GM variety on WestJet magazine to increase consumer awareness in Canada. This helped pave the way for sales of Hawaii papaya to Costco in Canada. 2020/2021 funds (approximately $50,000) will be used to promote retail awareness and to run a 3 month social media campaign. Those contracts were signed this week as the monies must be expended in 2021. This is an example of adapting to changing times as HPIA will rely more on web based solutions to communicate with both its members and customers. To this end, HPIA has contracted out maintenance of our website, so it can be current and professionally maintained.  Independent of SHAC, HPIA will be running a social media campaign targeting the skiing community in the Western US to build consumer awareness of the taste, nutrition and Hawaiian branding of our papaya.

I look forward to working with our board to continue to adapt and innovate to assist our members who grow the best papaya in the world.

Eric Weinert,

President HPIA