HC&S to Shut Down Maui Sugarcane Operations!

sugarcane Maui

Today Alexander & Baldwin announced they’ll be shutting down sugarcane operations by late 2016.


They announced that they will be transitioning Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S) to a diversified farm model.  They will be looking at the potential of energy crops, cattle land, and an agriculture park for food crops for their 36,000 acre plantation here in Maui, Hawaii.

Their last sugarcane harvest is expected to be completed by late 2016, and until then around half of their 675 employees will remain in their jobs.  Their decision was made after seeing a “roughly $30 million Agribusiness operating loss” from 2015, which forecasts show it continuing with large losses that are unsustainable.

Their decision to shut down Maui sugarcane operations after 145 years will impact everyone living on and visiting Maui, Hawaii. The outcome of this change could go in many different ways (and probably will!)

What will happen to Maui?


We’ve taken guesses and asked questions below, and we’re not experts on much of this, so please comment with your thoughts and correct us.

  • Jobs – The loss of jobs is incredibly sad, but they did mention that HC&S employees will be given preference to lease lots to start their own farms.  That, of course, requires a serious investment from the employees.  The loss of 675 jobs is a big number.  But how many jobs could be created from the new uses for this land?  Will having diverse crops require more labor than the current large scale mono-crops?  Will developing energy crops necessitate the use of more skilled labor?  It’s possible many more than 675 jobs will be created, but those new jobs won’t be created over night.
  • Growth and Infrastructure – Tell us if we’re wrong, but if they go through with expanding their “test projects” for energy crops, irrigated grass finishing pastures for cattle, and new food crops, wouldn’t that require new infrastructure and growth of industry on Maui?
  • End to Cane Burning – There will be a lot of people rejoicing at the thought of their lungs being given a break.  Sugarcane burning has been used for years to increase the yield and make harvesting more efficient for HC&S.  Some of our writers here live up against cane and are very happy to hear that they won’t have to close up their homes and leave the neighborhood while a form of smokey Armageddon takes over the sky.  We also know of people that moved off island because of health issues they swear came from the burns.
  • Terrain Changes – What will this do to the land?  In a most extreme case, what if 36,000 of the 88,000 acres that Alexander & Baldwin own were made into cattle land, or just not developed at all?  What would that do to the land?  Will wind erosion affect other parts of the island?
  • Water Usage – Water is always a concern on Maui.  HC&S has been using quite a lot of it in places that were not irrigated in the same way over a hundred years ago.  Will new crops require more or less water?
  • Monsanto – It’s no secret that Monsanto owns large amounts of agricultural land on Maui for the purpose of open air testing.  HC&S plans on creating a food crop agriculture park as a test project where they’ll “provide opportunities for farmers to access these agricultural lands.”  Is it possible that Monsanto would get their hands on it?
  • New Development – Alexander & Baldwin has a subsidiary called A&B Properties, Inc. and has acquired Grace Pacific, Hawaii’s largest materials and paving company. Do they have plans of selling and/or building on much of this land for retail, industrial, or residential use?
  • Energy – Most of our island’s energy comes from a pretty ancient diesel burning plant.  Is biogas cleaner?  Could we move towards more sustainable energy sources?  HC&S has been generating 100% self-sufficient energy for some time now.  Will their experience and interest in this carry over to the new crops?
  • Tourism – Many tourists choose to visit Maui because of the green valley.  Depending on how the land is eventually used, We could see an increase or loss of visitors to Maui.
  • Long Term Plans – We find it hard to believe a massive company like this, largely involved with developing land, could let the sugarcane lose money for so long without a plan. Some of us believe this has been in the works for a decade or more.  Maui is changing.  Just look at the new airport improvements.  We’re expecting quite a lot more people (both residents and visitors.)  This August was the busiest we’ve seen it in the history of Maui.  SO, was this change in business plan part of a bigger long term plan to develop this incredibly valuable land at the most opportune time?  Please comment with your thoughts.

This is VERY BIG NEWS.  We appreciate all of your input, so please share below in comments what you think.


  • You know! Monsanto and A B will be building homes for big profits! Causing more water issues! Greed is ruining everything Great!

  • Monsanto is one great agricultural company. Organic food is over rated. If you like fine. Pay the money for it if you want it.

    • Whether you feel they’re a great company or not, the necessity of pesticide use for mono crops are poisoning our land and people. We need to find alternatives and get back to how farming was done back in the day (especially how it was done by the ancient Hawaiians.) Buying organic or non-organic is everyone’s choice and shouldn’t be taken away from them. But we’re not talking about crops currently grown here for our consumption. The majority of our food comes from the continent, not here. And most of the sugarcane grown here is exported.

  • If anyone is interested to learn a little more about what cattle would do to Maui, check out the awesome documentary on Netflix called Cowspiracy – that would be so sad for Maui!!

  • We will be glad they quit the burning. We just learned that they burn the plastic pipes along with the crops and that’s appalling. We spend about 6 weeks a year on Maui and suffer through the Maui “snow”.

  • So sad to see this go. Was there last year and enjoyed seeing the cane fields. If change is coming, I pray it is for nourishing food that can employee people and feed. No hemp and marijuana fields to ruin the beautiful island.

  • I hope Agricultural crops & livestock remain on the Island of Maui for food supply to help feed all the people and tourists who come there.

  • Anyone responding have ties to sugar? Have family or friend’s lose jobs? Have come from families of plantation camps? You have no idea malahini

  • Pretty epic. Sounds like HC&S plan to keep most or all of the land for agricultural use. I think its a great time to diversify their portfolio: goat milk, beef cattle, cash crops, local organic produce, hemp and medicinal herbal drugs etc. I am sure their is a way to use multiple systems that compliment each other to make a synergistic cornucopia of food. They should lease their land to local farmers to provide more jobs and opportunity to local communities. Change can be good or bad, but its inevitable, cane burning is a pastime and we have the opportunity to help create a brighter cane-plume-free future.

  • I would hate to see housing or cattle in the fields cattle are extremely wasteful even though delicious and contribute to the ozone layer thinning etc. you can’t control
    Change but I hope they keep some of the cane and transfer to more lucrative plants that at least keep the land green…

  • No to Monsanto Yes to hemp!!! And please grow some good not evil Monsanto!! We could feed us all and be a example for everyone!!

  • As a casual visitor, I am not disappointed in this decision. On one of my visits I was appalled at the burning of the cane. It was nasty smelling and created an ash downing from the sky as thick as a heavy dry snow with huge flakes. Cars covered in ash leaving parking lots spewing a cloud of contaminating dust. That to me is a disservice to your tourism and a huge negative to relocating there. I applaud the decision and am sure Maui will benefit in the end

    • “As a casual visitor…….” We will be loosing jobs!! More people will become homeless!! Cost of living will most likely increase, again!! And this is good for us Kama aina??

    • Like you said…’casual visitor’….that means you have no idea how much this will affect the locals and the island! Unless you are from Maui, you never truly understand!!

  • “The legal marijuana industry brought in $2.4 billion last year, so it’s certainly no longer any sort of laughing matter. That figure represents an increase of a whopping 74 percent in one year’s time, and it is estimated that the total legal market could be worth $11 billion as soon as 2019.” 88,000 acres of the best soil on the planet and a growth crop worth billions ….. Seems like a no brainer. 😉

    • Too bad it is filled with Round Up and all kinds of other plastic and chemicals, I’m sure there have been tons of fuel spills, engines leaking, all kinds of crap going on that’s never been reported in those fields…. You only understand till you really see it happening…. and have some sort of intelligence, who cares about the past and history…. it’s about the future-now so we all have to deal with it somehow..

  • i live on Maui the west side where they don’t burn anymore and I have no idea why they haven’t already been growing hemp along all those fields a long time ago. Lets home this will be a huge change where Hemp and other crops can be grown eventually! the only problem is all the chemicals they have been spraying and all the plastic irrigation piping they burn every season as well that have contaminated the soil… This company should not only be shut down but the owners should go to prison for killing thousands and destroying the environment.

    Mahalo from Lahaina

  • Cattle requires huge amounts of water. It takes 600 gallons of water to produce one hamburger. I hope the Maui I have known all my life does not become a wasteland of cattle raising or condominiums. Worried.

    • We didn’t know that! WOW. Is that 600 gallons for grass fed? Sounds like they just want to finish cattle with grass. Though, the grass would have to be there year round… Yes, there’s a lot to worry about. It could very well be the best thing to happen to Maui, but that’s being pretty optimistic. Would be nice if we could grow enough food to feed those on Maui 100% and provide 100% energy for the island. Also would be nice to see diverse crops and possibly less water usage? We’ll see…

    • There are a lot of crops that make sense to grow on that land. You’re not the first to suggest hemp, which we think is a good idea too. We just hope it’s diverse and includes food crops too.

  • I’m still leaning towards sea turbines. Is taro easily grown? Maybe more export of flowers. How often does it rain in that area? Many blessings to the island!

    • Taro requires a lot of water, but it’d be nice to see more growing here. Exporting isn’t what we need as much as NOT IMPORTING. Most of our food comes from outside sources, where Maui could grow more than enough to feed the population (both residents and visitors.) I think that’s the first step. Sea turbines are an incredible technology. There are many locations off the coast that could actually benefit ecologically from having turbines anchored in sand offering an artificial reef.

  • Please do NOT let Monsanto get their dirty hands on even an acre of this land! And please keep it green – no more hotels and strip malls…..please don’t turn Maui into another Oahu 🙁

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