The Puna area is one of the largest producers of papayas. With farms there either destroyed or cut off by the lava, the price of the popular fruit could soon double.

We’re already seeing the shortage in the stores. And it will likely get even worse in the months ahead.

Armstrong Produce gets more than half of its papayas from farms in Puna. Lately, the shelves are pretty sparse. 

A spokeswoman says it usually gets two to three shipments a week of about 700 cases of papayas. Now they’re only getting 240 cases with each shipment. 

That’s not enough to fill the demand at grocery stores and hotels. The way things are, she says the price will probably double in a couple of weeks. 

“When they go they may not find any or it’ll be really green and they may have to wait. That kind of stuff happens. It’s starting to go up now and I think as the shortage continues then the prices will go up as well,” said Tish Uyehara, marketing director at Armstrong Produce.

The Hawaii Farm Bureau says more than 80% of the papayas grown in the state come from the Puna area. It’s estimated that at least 2,200 acres of papaya farms have been destroyed or cut off by the lava.

“There’s huge areas in front of our place. We were on a hill but all the people in front of us, I don’t know how many, 20 or 30 farmers, they lost everything,” said Delan Perry.

He and his wife Jennifer have a farm in Kapoho, which is still there. The problem is not being able to get the supplies and equipment to harvest the fruit.

“We can get the fruit out but we’re watching that flow. How long do we want to stay in the field before it comes down on us? It’s too scary, it’s way too scary,” said Jennifer.

The Perry’s say they will rebuild. But  it’s gonna take some time before that happens. 

Farmers say it takes nearly a year to grow a new crop. So it will take at least that long before the situation gets better.