Editor’s note: On Dec. 3, the Kaua‘i Museum celebrates its 50th anniversary. Museum leaders have chosen 50 stories from exhibits, collections and the archives of the museum to share with the public. One story will run daily through Dec. 3.
LIHU‘E — For researching plantation history, the Gilmore Sugar Manuals, an annual report of U.S. sugar cane producers is invaluable. Published under various names, they reported statistics and interesting work done on individual plantations during the year. This is some interesting information collected from manuals from 1936 and 1948 when many plantations had begun to phase out rail.
Kilauea Sugar Plantation Co.
In 1936 the rail system was 11 miles of 24-gauge track, two 16-ton oil-fired Baldwin locomotives and 260 three-ton flare-door type cane cars which were discontinued in 1948.
Grove Farm Company, Ltd.
In 1936, harvesting transportation consisted of 13.5 miles of permanent 30-inch track and four miles of portable track. The cane cars used in harvesting belong to Lihu‘e Plantation where the cane was processed. In 1948, transportation equipment consisted of rail cars from Lihu‘e Plantation with trucks used to bring in harvested cane from isolated steep fields.
Funny how things work out. Our new mayor wants to take over plantation water systems (although when he had a chance four years ago, he backed down).
A couple of years ago, a combination of drought and low prices had HC&S on the ropes, and the board at A&B was beginning to wonder whether sugar was a business they wanted to be in. At best, it accounts for only about 7% of revenue. HC&S is such a small part of A&B that it cannot ever contribute largely to profits, although it can — and recently has — hammered them down.
Since A&B answers to Wall Street, which does not give a damn about Upcountry water meters, low sugar prices open the way to a county takeover of EMI. This would be a disaster, but, like I say, funny how things work out.
Arakawa’s in, sugar prices are up, A&B will presumably stick with HC&S for a while longer, the valley will be green and Kihei will not have to live through endless dust storms.
Alexander & Baldwin Inc. tripled its third-quarter profit with greatly improved performances from its ocean transportation service in China and sugar business on Maui.
The Honolulu-based company reported today earning a net profit of $25.7 million, or 62 cents per diluted share of stock, in the July-September period, up from $8.5 million, or 21 cents per share, in the same period last year.
The big gain was largely from A&B’s ocean cargo subsidiary, Matson Navigation Co., which posted a 67 percent rise in operating profit to $40.4 million in the third quarter from $24.2 million a year earlier.
A&B said Matson’s performance was principally driven by higher volume and yields in its China service, which it expanded in mid-September.
Another contributor to the rise in profit was A&B’s Maui sugar subsidiary, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., which benefited from higher sugar prices and production.
HC&S, along with Kauai Coffee Co., delivered an $800,000 operating profit for A&B, which represents a $13 million improvement from a $13.8 million operating loss in the 2009 third quarter.
Operating profits from real estate leasing and sales were lower for A&B.
Everything about Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. has its roots in past necessity. That became clear during a HC&S tour.
Weeds? Develop “bunch cane.” The kapakahi stalks grow every which way, denying any weed even a bit of sunlight. Destructive insects? Develop cane that resists the pests.
A shallow lens of fresh water on gallons of salty groundwater? Develop – in 1910 – a skimmer well so unique the U.S. Geological Survey refers to it as the “Maui Well.”
The 25-passenger van carried Rotarians from Kihei, members of the Court Stenographers and Captioners Association, a scribbler, corporate Community Relations Manager Linda Howe and Mae Nakahata, HC&S agronomist and Big Island girl who has called Maui home for 25 years. (E kala mai, Mae, for getting your home address wrong in last week’s column.)
After watching a double-snout machine harvest a seed field, the van ran down lumpy asphalt cane-haul roads to a field near the airport. Custom hydraulic cranes grabbed great mouthfuls of cane from windrows shoved together by bulldozers.
The Brobdingnagian claws sometimes drop abandoned vehicles into the 50-ton Tourna haulers. Nakahata said many of the unscheduled cane fires are the result of stolen cars being set ablaze.
PUUNENE – The Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum is unveiling a new exhibit titled “Mills, Machinery and Locomotives” that will be on display through October.
The exhibit includes never-before-shown historic photos from inside the mill, as well as mill and foundry artifacts, and objects and photos from the Kahului Railroad. Artist Tom Sewell’s video piece, “Enigma of the Mill,” also will be presented, showing how mill operations can be rendered as art.
The museum is open daily, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at 3957 Hansen Road. For more information, call 871-8058 or www.sugarmuseum.com.
The 25-passenger van slammed into a deep trench. Rotarians and court reporters bounced out of their seats. The abused van’s windows rattled while keeping heat and dust at bay. A small air conditioner at the rear of the vehicle provided marginal cooling.
Driver Tony Vierra – one of only two men allowed to take Roberts Hawaii vans into the fields – tried to miss the biggest holes in the sugar fields’ “roads,” but there was no way to avoid them all. The benign jostling and, later, the heat in the mill were the most uncomfortable parts of a slick, six-hour Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. tour Saturday.
It began at 8 a.m. in a conference room in the old Puunene headquarters. Despite the hour, tour coordinator Linda Howe radiated city energy. She and agronomist Mae Nakahata had come over from Alexander & Baldwin’s Honolulu headquarters. Howe attended to the sign-in sheets, name tags, liability waivers and menus for lunch.
The Rotarians were from Kihei. The court reporters had come to Maui for a meeting of the Court Stenographers and Captioners Association. It was a convivial group sincerely interested in learning more about HC&S. One Mainland retiree liked to talk about his experiences as an employee at a sugar beet operation. It was somewhat annoying and definitely off the point of the tour – lobbying on behalf of the sugar company via candid education. The syllabus centered on sustainability and the production of energy.
Hawaiian sugar grower working on crops to fuel ships, planes.
HONOLULU — The federal government has turned to a 130-year-old Hawaii sugar grower for help in powering the Navy and weaning the nation off a heavy reliance on fossil fuels.
It will spend at least $10 million over the next five years to fund research and development at Maui cane fields for crops capable of fueling Navy fighter jets and ships. The project also may provide farmers in other warm climates with a model for harvesting their biofuel crops.
Hawaii has become a key federal laboratory for biofuels because of its dependence on imported oil as well as its great weather for growing crops. Factor in the heavy military presence at places such as Pearl Harbor, and the islands become an ideal site for the government to test biofuel ideas on a commercial scale.
“Hawaii is kind of the perfect storm of opportunity,” said Tom Hicks, the Navy’s deputy assistant secretary for energy.
Navy fighter jets and ship could be powered by biofuels grown in Hawaii under an effort funded by the federal government.
The government is spending at least $10 million over five years on research and development at Maui cane fields for crops capable of fueling Navy fighter jets and ships. The project also may provide farmers in other warm climates with a model for harvesting biofuel crops.
Hawaii has become a key federal laboratory for biofuels because of its dependence on imported oil and its great weather for growing crops. It also has a large military presence.
The Office of Naval Research is funding the five-year program at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar, a company dating to the 1870s that runs the last sugar plantation in the state.
The state says Wailuku Water Co. and Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. will begin releasing water to Waihee River and North and South Waiehu Streams in central Maui next week.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources says the companies next Monday will act to comply with a state water commission order issued in June.
But the move is unlikely to satisfy two Maui groups who want the companies to return more water than the commission ordered.
Hui o Na Wai Eha and Maui Tomorrow appealed the water commission’s ruling in state court last month.
They say they’re being deprived of the water they need to grow taro and restore natural habitat.