Most pests sneak into Hawaii on 40 products


HONOLULU — Pests hitchhiking in 40 imported commodities like lettuce and cut flowers account for 90 to 95 percent of the pests and potential invasive species entering Hawaii.

Agriculture Department Plant Quarantine Manager Carol Okada told lawmakers at the state Capitol Friday the department is helping farmers grow these products locally so people won’t need to import them.

The department is particularly concerned a plant pathogen native to Brazil will sneak into Hawaii in cut flower bouquets. The pathogen, called eucalyptus rust, is a threat to native ohia trees.

Hawaii imports 85 to 90 percent of its food and a significant share of flowers.

But budget cuts forced the Agriculture Department to slash in half the number of inspectors checking cargo for pests from 95 in 2009 to 50.