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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 1, 2002

Developer explores Ka'u farmland deal

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island bureau

PAHALA, Hawai'i — Honolulu developer Peter Savio will meet tomorrow with prospective ranchers and farmers to discuss possible proposals to buy former Ka'u Sugar land to create farms and ranches.

C. Brewer and Co. is offering to sell the 30,000 acres in Ka'u as part of its statewide liquidation process that includes property along the Hilo coastline and on Maui. The last surviving sugar plantation on the Big Island was closed in March 1996 after 137 years in business.

Savio, working with the Big Island Farm Bureau, will hold the meeting at noon at the Pahala Community Center. Savio said he wants to gauge how much demand there might be for the property.

Savio said there are some macadamia nut trees on the Ka'u property, a beginning commercial forestry project, and a few small farms on lease land. Much of the land is fallow, but could provide for coffee, farm crops and livestock, he said.

Savio said he anticipates prospective buyers would want to restrict the size of the lots to preclude "gentlemen farmers" and to control projects that would conflict with agriculture.

"They could have the benefit of a plantation with centralized purchasing, processing and bulk-rate shipping," added Savio. "Right now we need to get a sense of the level of interest."

Coffee-growing, seen as a potentially main crop in the district, has started on some leasehold land that Savio said growers might want to convert into ownership. He also said he sees potential interest from Kona farmers largely limited to leases on Kamehameha Schools land.

Diane Ley, administrative assistant for the farm bureau, was not available for comment yesterday on the extent of her group's involvement.