Produce Information Exchange: A Local Food Price Index for Hawaii

Produce Information Exchange: A Local Food Price Index for Hawaii

Inadequate food data has been a problem for decades.
The Honolulu Advertiser, July 13 1953

Local food production information has been an issue for decades, and severely limited since 2009 when HDOA’s Hawaii Agriculture Statistical Service stopped regular data collection. This study combines data from local food hubs to quantify an otherwise untracked portion of local production and pricing information.

This project begins reestablishment of the Produce Information Exchange (PIE). PIE began in the early 1950s (see inset) to provide data to producers, brokers, and buyers about local availability and price.

The work listed below was for a contract with Hawaii Green Growth as an addition to the State of Hawaii Aloha+ Challenge dashboard tracking Hawai‘i’s progress toward achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals. Their presentation of the data can be viewed here under the ‘Food Hubs’ section or on its own here.

Primary Work & Data products

  • 1 month study duration (August 2019)
  • Identify food hub operators across Hawaii
  • Collate product, price, and availability lists
  • Process data into a common format
  • Produce aggregate measures of availability and pricing
  • Visualize data outputs
    • Map of food hubs and aggregators across the State
    • Graphs of statewide production tallies for selected crops
    • Graphs of averaged pricing graph for selected crops

Data Collection, Cleaning, and Filtering

Numerous food hubs and aggregators were contacted and many shared their data to the project.

Collected datasets were restructured to 9 common variables (Date, Product, Availability, Supplier, Price, Unit, Category, Market, and Island).
The resulting dataset had 9000+ observations of 700 unaggregated products from 90+ farms across 5 markets.

Data were grouped, reducing to ~100 grouped products.
For example “Zucchini, Green Cert. Organic”, “Zucchini, Green”, “Zucchini, Golden” grouped as ”Zucchini”, and ”pounds”, ”lb”, ”16 oz”, were grouped as “Pounds”, etc.

The grouped ~100 items were filtered for products that were:

  • In single pound units
  • Listed in 4 or more markets
  • Produced by 4 or more suppliers
  • Grown on 3 or more Islands
  • Listed during the study period

Resulting in a list of 12 crops, grown across 36 farms, and listed in 5 markets:

  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Beans
  • Breadfruit
  • Dragonfruit
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Starfruit

Findings & Implications

Statewide Map of Local Food Hubs & Aggregators

See bigger map in new window. If you are not on the map and should be, shoot me a note!

Review of the distribution of aggregators across the state finds that Kauai does not currently have any such service in operation. Previous aggregation operators have shut down, and while some scoping for potentially starting an aggregator has occurred in the past couple of years, no new operations have opened yet.

Price Details

This chart shows various pricing measures for each product including the lowest (min) and highest (max) pricing, overall average, and weighted (by volume) average pricing.

Price Spread

This chart shows the spread of pricing (MAX price – MIN price) by product. Products with small price spreads may be more mature product markets. For example, long standing commercial papaya and avocado production industries and operations have helped define stable market rates. Alternatively, for crops with less developed markets, such as dragonfruit or beans, the price spread is far greater.

Unique Prices

While Price Spread shows overall difference in pricing, this chart shows the distribution of unique price values. Pricing clusters offer another view into the markets at work. For example, while kale has the greatest price spread this view shows that most pricing are clustered between $3 and $4. Outliers impact both price spread and average price calculations.

Price Quartiles

Price quartiles provide the best view into price differentiations. Removing outliers and bounding the 2nd (25-50%, dark grey) and 3rd (50-75%, light grey) quartiles of the data highlights the relative density of price clusters. For example, while dragonfruit had a large price spread (max-min) the data quartiles are in fact relatively narrow, compared to say mango.


Volumes are best viewed daily and not in aggregate as crop listings may roll over from one posting period to the next. This data is far from complete and should not be taken as a full measure of production across the state. Consistent spikes in data demonstrate the impact of larger product lots on overall availability. In those cases it appears that a single or a few producers may compose much of the total available product.

Pricing by Island

Oahu and Maui had most of the lowest priced goods. Based on the history of these islands being the centers of diversified vegetable crop production, market data, and density would reason that competition is greatest in those markets. Highest prices were often found on Oahu and Maui as well, which may be related to there being a greater number of potential customers at various market levels.


Overall, these data find:

  1. A significant spatial gap on Kauai for local food aggregation service provision
  2. Pricing trend variance by product based on geography (i.e., min/max on Oahu & Maui)
  3. Potential pricing trend variance based on crop market maturity.

Next Steps

Longer term data collection and analysis can help to provide greater understanding of seasonal impacts on production and related price implications.