Thailand grows 75 percent of the flowers used in Hawaiian-made lei, but a flooding in the country last fall destroyed 80 percent of its orchid crops, according to Summer Campos, co-founder of the Hawaiian Lei Company.
Together with the graduation season and the growing popularity of lei on the mainland, “All lei prices have inflated due to the orchid shortage,” Campos says. A basic lei that would normally go for about $5 currently costs as much as $15, she says. And double or specialty lei cam run between $40 and $80.
“We are all just scrambling to make any lei at this point,” says Campos, noting that Chinatown stands were virtually depleted of flower lei by 10 a.m. last Saturday–graduation day for many schools.
Unfortunately, while Campos says “would love to get everything from Hawaii,” local supplies can’t meet the demand. During the busy season, the Hawaiian Lei Co. alone needs approximately 150,000 loose orchids per week. The company ships more than 30,000 lei to the mainland each year.
“Outsourcing is the only solution at this point.”” –A.W.