Hawaii Says ‘Aloha’ to Sugar.
Sugar is no more. The last sugar plantation in the Hawaiian Islands was here on Maui and, after something like 140 years of 24-hour-a-day operation, the mill has shut down. All the reasons can be summed up by saying it’s just not profitable anymore.
Even some of the locals here don’t fully understand the impact sugar has had on these islands. For one thing, sugar is why we have Chinese and Japanese and Filipino friends and neighbors. Their ancestors and their relatives came here to work in both sugar and pineapple fields. And the Portuguese, too. Sugar is the main reason everyone who lives in Hawaii belongs to a racial minority.
Here on Maui, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar has had some 35,000 acres in sugar cane for all those years. I always thought it was an especially beautiful sight when flying into Maui from the mainland. Planes fly across the isthmus between the mountains of east and west Maui, crossing over all those green fields of sugar cane before turning 180 degrees into the wind for landing.
Growing, harvesting and refining sugar is a 24-hour-a-day operation. The one really controversial step in that process is the burning of the fields which is done to get rid of the leaves. Sugar comes from the juice and it’s in the stalks. Locals take cane burning in stride, knowing it’s the cheapest, most efficient way of getting rid of the useless leaves.
But more and more there have been complaints from some of the newcomers and part time residents living in condos and time share units down wind in the resort area of Kihei. They hated the ash that would sometimes float onto their condo lanais like black snow. Cane burning often prompted those folks to fire off outraged letters-to-the-editor demanding the impossible—that HC&S cease and desist immediately. The ones I found particularly galling were typically signed
Mr. and Mrs. Joe Blow
Kihei / Santa Barbara
OK, so sugar has gone; some 600 people have lost their jobs; a way of life we have all taken for granted is no more; and everyone is worried about what’s going to happen to all that land. Everyone except Joe Blow and his wife. Well, the hell with them. They probably spend nine months a year in Santa Barbara anyway.