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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 21, 2006

Cheaper foreign fruit shuts down Kaua'i guava plantation

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

LIHU'E, Kaua'i Kilauea Agronomics, the guava plantation established by C. Brewer on its old Kilauea Sugar Co. lands on Kaua'i's north shore, will close most of its operations by the end of the year, and all of them within a few months.

Most of the 21 full-time and part-time employees have been told their last day of work will be tomorrow, although they will be paid through the end of the year and most will receive a severance package. A few workers will remain on the payroll for a limited time while remaining operations wind down.

"It'll close in various stages. The visitor center will be closing later," said Dennis Simonis, president of D Buyers Enterprises LLC, which owns the firm.

ILWU Kaua'i Division Director Clayton Dela Cruz said the union was informed of the planned closing Oct. 31. He said the company and union are scheduling meetings to help workers with the transition and to find them new jobs.

"It might be a little bit difficult. They have worked for many years, just picking and processing guava. Some may need training for new positions," Dela Cruz said.

The company had been suffering "significant operating losses," Simonis said.

"The price for guava has continued to decline in the face of cheaper foreign guava. People aren't willing to pay a little more for higher-quality product," Simonis said.

Former C. Brewer boss J.W.A. "Doc" Buyers, who died this year, bought the guava processor from Brewer in 2001. The 400 or so acres where guava is now grown has been sold, and Simonis said the company's lease was running out.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com.