Hawaii’s last sugar plantation will stop growing sugar cane this year, marking the end of an industry that strongly influenced Hawaii’s politics, economy and culture for more than a century.
Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. announced Wednesday that its 36,000-acre Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company plantation on Maui will phase out its sugar farming this year in favor of diversified agriculture.
A&B has been cultivating sugar cane on Maui since 1870, and the plantation covers more than 40 percent of its 88,000-acre Hawaii land holdings.
Executive Chairman Stanley Kuriyama said in a press release that the business was no longer sustainable and the company expected to incur a $30 million operating loss for 2015.
The announcement prompted a flood of press releases from Hawaii’s political leaders.
“This is a significant historic marker for Hawaii, the end of an era that touched the lives of generations of hardworking, local families,” Gov. David Ige said in a statement.
Along with pineapple, the sugar industry spurred tens of thousands of Asian immigrants to move to Hawaii to work on farms.
Sugar planters were among the American businessmen who overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 with the backing of the U.S. military.
“A&B’s roots literally began with the planting of sugar cane on 570 acres in Makawao, Maui, 145 years ago,” said Kuriyama. “Much of the state’s population would not be in Hawaii today, myself included, if our grandparents or great-grandparents had not had the opportunity to work on the sugar plantations.”
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