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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Islands' pineapple output continues rapid decline

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Packers at the Maui Pineapple Co. plant in Kahului represent the few survivors in Hawai'i's pineapple labor force. The state's only pineapple growers at the end of the year will be Dole Foods and Maui Pine.


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Fresh pineapple production and sales last year were the lowest since the state began keeping records in 1950, and the outlook for this year is even bleaker with the closure of Del Monte Fresh Produce's operations on O'ahu.

The value of last year's fresh pineapple crop was estimated at $75.5 million, a drop from the previous low of $79.3 million set in 2005, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service in Hawai'i. The decrease was despite a 5 percent increase in the fresh-market farm price to $630 a ton, compared with $600 a ton in 2005.

The state's pineapple growers produced 188,000 tons of fresh pineapple in 2006, an 11 percent drop from 2005's 212,000 tons, which was the previous record low. Sales of fresh Hawai'i pineapples dropped from 106,000 tons in 2005 to 99,000 tons last year, while sales of processed pineapples dropped 16 percent to 89 tons in 2006.

It was the third consecutive year that pineapple production and sales have declined. Much of the blame is competition from foreign producers and a cutback in production.

The NASS reported a loss of 100 acres of pineapple production in 2006 and did not include the more than 5,000 acres taken out of pineapple when Del Monte shut down its Kunia operations in November. Last year, 139,000 acres were in pineapple in Hawai'i, the report said.

Mark Hudson, director of the NASS field office in Hawai'i, said the Department of Agriculture does not make production projections, but said it "would be a fair assumption" that Del Monte's departure will have a significant impact on pineapple production in 2007.

"It'll be down," Hudson said.

Hawai'i's two other major pineapple growers are Dole Food Co. Inc. and Maui Land & Pineapple Co.

The state record for pineapple production was set in 1955 at 1.5 million tons, and the highest sales total was recorded in 1991 at $107.8 million.

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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