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Maui Land & Pineapple to cease agricultural production

by Lora Abcarian | November 16, 2009
Maui Land & Pineapple Co. Inc. in Kahului, HI, announced Nov. 3 its intention to restructure the business, ending 97 years of pineapple cultivation on the Valley Isle.

The company's two subsidiaries are the Maui Pineapple Co. Ltd., which grew Maui Gold pineapples on 2,000 acres, and the Kapalua Land Co. Ltd., which operated the Kapalua Resort in west Maui.

In all, approximately 300 workers are expected to be laid off. In addition to these holdings, the company owns the Pu'u Kukui Watershed Preserve, the largest private nature preserve in Hawaii, and the 3,307-acre Honolua- Mokule'ia Marine Life Conservation District.

Maui Land & Pineapple experienced a severe economic downturn as financial losses burgeoned in 2008 and 2009. The company reported a loss of $79.4 million in 2008. During the third quarter of 2009, the company registered an equity loss of $22.8 million for its investment in Kapalua Bay Holdings LLC, jumping overall losses in 2009 to $92.9 million.

Company shareholders continued to feel the economic pinch over the past two years. During the third quarter of 2008, shareholders lost $1.09 per share. During the third quarter of 2009, that figure rose to $3.17 per share. Since 2002, Maui Pineapple Co. has lost $115 million. Although agricultural operating losses sustained during 2008 were higher than those occurring in 2009, revenues declined nearly a third in 2009, primarily attributed to lower pricing and lower case volume sales.

Interim Chief Executive Officer Warren Haruki told The Produce News, "Unfortunately, despite our exhaustive efforts to revitalize the pineapple business over the last few years and efforts to keep agriculture jobs on Maui, market conditions have not improved, and pineapple operations at [Maui Pineapple Co.] are not financially sustainable."

Pineapple production is anticipated to cease at the end of 2009. In a prepared statement, Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares said, "This is very sad news for our community, especially for the employees and their families who will be affected. Agricultural fields are part of our heritage and have been a foundation of our island's history. For nearly a hundred years, the company's pineapple operations have made our community's character unique. Working in our pineapple fields has been the source of income for many families, where high school teenagers spent their summers and where multiple members of a family worked in different parts of the operations."

Maui Land & Pineapple struggled with reorganization for the past two years. Pineapple processing operations were shut down in order to focus on fresh production. Additionally, the company cut employee wages and laid off hundreds of workers.

Kapalua Land Co. plans to work with new vendors to revitalize the resort, and it is hoped that as many as 133 workers will be rehired.