Farmers split on Hawaii coffee labeling proposal

KAILUA-KONA (AP) – Another attempt to enact Hawaii-grown coffee labeling laws for blends has Big Island farmers at odds.

Hawaii County Councilwoman Brenda Ford wants labels to provide the amount of coffee that’s contained in a blend.

Currently, a blend has to contain 10 percent Hawaii-grown coffee to be labeled as such.

Some farmers support changing labeling laws while others say it’s not necessary. “It’s consumer fraud to continue this 10- percent packaging,” said coffee farmer Clare Wilson.

Coffee farmer Gary Strawn said he sells only 100-percent Kona coffee but doesn’t support the pair of resolutions aimed at more precise labeling for blends. “I do not believe it’s the government’s place to say what I can or cannot sell, what I can or cannot buy or what I can or cannot drink,” he said.

Ford said it’s not about trying to stop blending Hawaii-grown coffee with coffee grown in other parts of the world. “I want the label to say 90-percent Colombia and 10-percent Kona,” she said. “I want it on the front label. I want the consumer to see it.”

Farmer Cecelia Smith agrees. “Kona blend is a simple rip off of the word ‘Kona,’ ” she said. “It only has to say the 10 percent selling word. How come we can’t be for the truth? Kona blend is not truthful.”

The council’s committee recessed the meeting to Sept. 30.