Waialua Sugar Mill
Alexander & Baldwin announced this month that they would be shutting down the last working sugar mill in Hawaii. They blamed the closing of the Maui facility on a $30 million loss last year, but some local residents say the decision was also based on a lawsuit against A&B by an anti-cane burning group.
Having grown up in Waialua on Oahu, I can still remember the smoke created by burning cane. Although we did not live within a five-mile radius of the burn zone, ash would still make its way into our backyard. The pungent smell of bagasse is also something I’ll never forget. It’s the by-product of processed sugar cane, and is used as bio-fuel to keep the mill running. For those who haven’t grown up around the smoke and smells, it can be somewhat off-putting.
Since Waialua Sugar Mill’s closing in 1996, the agriculturally zoned land has been leased to companies growing coffee, chocolate, bananas and other crops. However, most of the fields still lay empty and unused. Maui most likely has a similar future on the horizon. Turning 36,000-acres into diversified crops would be great since it would mean Hawaii could grow more of its own food, but the rising costs of labor and agricultural production make it a very difficult task.
In the meantime, if you, like myself are obsessed with our Maui Gold Cane Sugar, buy it NOW. Once A&B finish their last harvest this year, there will never be another bag of Hawaiian sugar. I plan on buying a 20-lb bag.