Guam’s Upgrowing Agricultural Markets (GUAM): Developing Profitable Local Food Markets and Sustainable Agriculture for Small Island Economies

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2023: $349,981.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2026
Host Institution Award ID: G184-24-W9981
Grant Recipients: University of Guam; University of Guelph; University of Maryland College Park
Region: Western
State: Guam
Principal Investigator:
Kuan-Ju Chen
University of Guam
Dr. Tongzhe Li
University of Guelph
Dr. Fred Schumann
University of Guam
Dr. L. Jen Shaffer
University of Maryland, College Park


Not commodity specific


  • Farm Business Management: agritourism, farmers' markets/farm stands, marketing management

    Proposal abstract:

    Guam, an Insular Area of the United States is a small island located at 13°N 144°E, and is both the largest and the southernmost island in the Northern Marianas Island chain in the Pacific Ocean. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, Guam’s population is roughly 153,836, and residents are dispersed throughout its 19 villages. Roughly 21,700 US military personnel and families reside in Guam. Guam is comprised of the indigenous population of Chamoru (37%), Filipino (26%), Caucasian (7%), Chuukese (7%), Korean (2%), other Pacific Island (2%), other Asian (2%), Chinese (2%), Palauan (2%), Japanese (1%), Pohnpeian (1%) and other mixed ethnicities (10%). Guam’s economy is primarily supported by tourism, military and government spending. In the fiscal year 2019, Guam received 1.63 million visitors, marking it the best fiscal year to date for its tourism industry (Guam Visitors Bureau, 2020).


    The island has based its agriculture mainly on small-scale, subsistence farming with extremely limited access to processing and packing facilities. Most of the agricultural food products that the population has depended on to feed Guam families have been imported from the continental US. More specifically, Guam has a major trade deficit of Net food & Non-alcoholic beverage exports by 22%; where in 2019 the island imported 18 million ($USD) in staples versus 4 million ($USD) in exported agrifood products (Guam Bureau of Statistics, 2019).  The restrictions of the Jones Act have made it significantly more expensive to transport goods from the US mainland to places like Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, or Guam (Negron, 2022). The COVID-19 pandemic further exposed Guam’s fragile infrastructure to supply chain interruptions.  Other factors, such as the rapid increase in the cost of fuel and runaway inflation, are even more pronounced on small islands like Guam that have relied heavily on imported goods, enfeebling the ability of households to afford high quality food.


    To stabilize the food supply to meet the needs of local people and tourists, it is important to develop Guam’s agriculture to stabilize food prices and reduce carbon footprint. Li et al. (2019) evaluated consumer preferences for local food, who found that consumers are more willing to pay (WTP) for local oysters harvested within 25 to 100 miles than those within 400 miles. Chen et al. (2019) reported similar results, where consumers are willing to pay a price premium on strawberries grown on biodegradable plastic mulches. In this project, we will conduct field experiments to determine consumer’s willingness-to-pay for Guam’s agricultural produce, and interviews to understand farmer experiences and preferences for producing local and sustainable food. This research will identify the most effective branding, marketing, and selling strategies to reach out to potential customers, as well as approaches to increase the involvement of Guam’s farming community sustainable production for the local market. Researchers and extensionists from Micronesia, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands will participate in local conferences and roundtable discussions in Guam, focusing on innovating strategies to promote and further develop sustainable agriculture among/within small island communities.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    To support a competitive agriculture system, this project seeks to identify the potential economic and environmental benefits of local food markets. We evaluate consumers’ willingness-to-pay (WTP) for top-selling local commodities. In addition, we keep track of and maintain a database on market data in a timely basis. This will improve transparency for producers in meeting customer expectations and developing commodity standards. Simultaneously, we investigate farmer preferences and experiences in producing food sustainably for Guam’s local markets. Identifying factors that influence decisions to participate in sustainable agriculture will aid Extension in the development of educational workshops and other materials promoting increased producer participation. Throughout this project, we strengthen the local food value chains and revitalize Guam’s Agriculture with profitable economies in Tourism (AgroTourism).

    Through (Obj.1) consumer preference studies and (Obj.2) farmer-focused surveys, the University and its collaborating organizations will (Obj.3/4) analyze and develop promotional strategies for local farmers to (Obj. 5) market produce in domestic markets and for communities and tourists.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.