Alexander & Baldwin Inc.’s agricultural sector – led by Maui’s Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. – produced a “strong performance” in 2011 while losses related to Matson Navigation Co. and the real estate sales division put a drag on company profits.
In reporting its 2011 and fourth-quarter financial results Monday, the Honolulu-based company said it logged a net income of $34.2 million, or 81 cents a share, for the year, down 63 percent from the $92.1 million, or $2.22 a share, in 2010 and down nearly 75 percent from the $132 million, or $3.19 a share, in 2008, as the Great Recession began roiling the national economy.
For the fourth quarter, A&B’s net income was only $1.6 million, or 4 cents a share, down from $20.2 million, or 48 cents a share, in the same quarter the previous year.
The company’s ocean transportation sector showed an operating profit of $74.1 million for the year, down from $118.7 million in 2010. This sector of the company suffered losses from the discontinuing of its second China-Long Beach service in the third quarter.
In addition, A&B said that the company continues to make progress on plans to separate its shipping and real estate/agricultural businesses in the second half of this year.
The agricultural sector, which includes HC&S and trucking and storage companies on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, showed an operating profit of $22.2 million in 2011, up 264 percent from $6.1 million in 2010. This is a big contrast from three years ago, when agriculture lost $27 million and the board of directors debated shutting down sugar operations.
The economic downturn means organic farmers are less likely to reap rewards of premium prices for their produce
Farmers across the UK have been deserting organic farming, or holding back on plans to convert their land to more environmentally friendly farming methods, as sales of organic products have fallen in the economic downturn.
Last year, only 51,000 hectares was in “conversion” – the process that farmers need to go through to have their land and practices certified as organic. That is less than half the amount of land that was in conversion in 2009, which itself was down markedly from the recent peak of 158,000Ha in 2007, according to statistics released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Thursday morning.
Far fewer farmers are interested in turning their land to organic production, despite the promise of premium prices for their produce, after a marked fall in sales of organic goods in the past two years as a result of the recession.
By WILLIAM NEUMAN
First it was heat and drought in Russia. Then it was heat and too much rain in parts of the American Corn Belt. Extreme weather this year has sent grain prices soaring, jolting commodities markets and setting off fears of tight supplies that could eventually hit consumers’ wallets.
In the latest market lurch, corn prices dropped in early October, then soared anew, in response to changing assessments by the federal government of grain supplies and coming harvests.
The sudden movements in commodities markets are expected to have little immediate effect on the prices of corn flakes and bread in the grocery store, although American consumers are likely to see some modest price increases for meat, poultry and dairy products.
But experts warn that the impact could be much greater if next year’s harvest disappoints and if 2011 grain harvests in the Southern Hemisphere also fall short of the current robust expectations.
“We can live with high commodity prices for a period without seeing much impact at the retail level, but if that persists for several months or a couple of years, then it eventually has to get passed on” to consumers, said Darrel Good, an emeritus professor of agricultural economics at the University of Illinois.
Even as the broader economy falters amid signs of a weakening recovery, the nation’s agriculture sector is going strong, bolstered in part by a surge in exports, according to federal estimates of farm trade and income released on Tuesday.
The estimates confirm what economists have been saying for months: agriculture, which was generally not hit as hard by the recession as many other segments of the economy, remains a small bright spot going forward.
“We’re just having a robust rebound in the agricultural sector and promises of more growth,” Jason R. Henderson, vice president and economist at the Omaha branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, said in a recent interview.
The estimates show that American farmers will ship $107.5 billion in agricultural products abroad in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. That is the second-highest amount ever, behind the record $115.3 billion in exports logged in 2008, when commodity prices soared as the global demand for agricultural products was helped by fast-growing economies in the developing world.