WEB EXCLUSIVE: Flower shortage has lei makers resorting to plastic
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's lei season but not everyone is happy with the options especially those resorting to adding fake flowers with the real thing.
Tonight is Chaminade University's largest graduation in school history with more than 500 kids set to get their degree. Some may get lei with fake crown flowers. One we found only has 11 real flowers. The rest are fake. Shoppers say it just doesn't capture the aloha spirit.
The Inamasu family flew in from Maui for their daughter's graduation from Chaminade and spent the day shopping for the best deal on lei and roses but had no idea some places are selling plastic with the orchids.
"We come here and pay good money for what you think is fresh flowers and you come back and see there is plastic in the middle and I don't think that is right," said Rose Inamasu from Kahului.
We found the plastic lei combo's at Costco, Wal-Mart and Longs Drugs. The one at Costco had four plastic crown flowers for every real flower. It was selling with a separate fake kukui lei for $8.50.
At Longs Drugs we found one that had a plastic every other piece. It went for $17.29.
"No? I cannot believe that. We sell our true flowers, maximum $8," said Kay Kadooka, who owns the Flower Field 2 Shop on Maunakea Street in Chinatown.
Kadooka says she would never resort to mixing in plastic.
"To me they are using plastic flowers in the middle of real live flowers that's cheating," laughed Kadooka. "It's cheating using plastic to confuse customers with the real flowers."
"I think the aloha has got to be real flowers,, the live flowers of course. That's where you get the fragrance and the beauty, not the plastic," said Kadooka.
Watanabe Floral makes the lei we found at Costco. They say the "plastic floral design spacers" as they are called are used because of a flower shortage. Flooding in Thailand last year destroyed 60 percent of the supply and there aren't enough flowers in Hawaii to make up for the loss.
DPCI Co. is the company that made the lei from Longs Drugs. They too have tried to supplement with local growers but realize people aren't happy with plastic but the shortage left them with no choice.
However customers do have a choice and many we spoke with weren't paying for plastic.
"Oh God you're paying $17 bucks for 10 wilted orchids," said Nadine Lagaso, as she inspected the lei with plastic. "It says a lot about the person giving the lei to yeah. You don't really want to give someone a plastic lei, plastic aloha."
As for the Inamasu's they did find beautiful options none of which had plastic.
"Of course you really want the best especially when your kids are graduating you want the best for them," said Rose Inamasu.
Watanabe Floral says an orchid used to be just 2 cents per flower head. Now it's more than 12 cents. And orchids need time to grow so the shortage could last for another year and a half or longer.