End of an era: Hawaii’s last sugar mill wraps up final harvest

Editor’s note: This is the end of an era. I used to write about Alexander & Baldwin, David Murdock’s Dole Food Co. and other Hawaiian companies for The Chronicle. The business relationship helped build a bridge between San Francisco and the Hawaiian Islands. The C&H sugar refinery in Crockett under the Carquinez Bridge is iconic. As a tourist, I recall seeing the sugar cane factory in Maui operating. Here’s the “scoop”:

“Hawaii’s only remaining sugar mill wrapped up its final harvest Monday with one last cane haul,” according to Hawaii News Now.

“In emotional day, longtime HC&S workers clock out for the last time
Hundreds of workers, retirees, and community members watched the delivery during a commemoration event at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company’s Puunene factory. With operations winding down, many workers are unsure what they’ll do next.

“‘You do this all your life, then you gotta figure out something else to do,’ said Robert Luuwai, vice president of factory operations.

“Alexander & Baldwin, the parent company for HC&S, announced in January that it would phase out sugar production this year, after reporting a roughly $30 million agribusiness operating loss in 2015.

‘Hawaii produced over a million tons of sugar per year for over 50 years. At one time that was 20% of all the sugar that was consumed in the United States,’ said Robert Osgood, a retired consultant for the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center and co-author of ‘From King Cane to the Last Sugar Mill.’

“One by one, Hawaii’s other sugar farms closed or consolidated, leaving just the Puunene plantation. A&B’s venture eventually started withering. Competing with low-cost sugar producers worldwide simply became too tough. The company also faced court battles over water rights and the public health effects of burning off cane leaves before harvests.

‘The community on Maui has changed quite a bit. We’ve got a lot more urbanized areas and some of the nuisances that are associated with agriculture, especially sugar cane, definitely contributed to that,’ explained Rick Volner, HC&S plantation general manager.”

The rest of the article is here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

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