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Old 12-20-2016, 05:00 PM   #1
A.T. Hagan
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Default The Final Days Of Hawaiian Sugar


Fermin Domingo, 61, worked at HC&S for 40 years. He drove in
the last truck hauler of sugar cane on the plantation's final day.
Molly Solomon/Hawaii Public Radio

Fermin Domingo, 61, climbs up the side of a sugar cane hauler for the last time. The haul truck driver has worked at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar (HC&S) company for the past 40 years, harvesting and hauling sugar cane to the mill. This is the last of Hawaii's sugar mills, and it too, is closing. Domingo and hundreds of other co-workers have gathered to wrap up the final harvest and say goodbye to a crop that shaped the islands.
The rest at NPR.
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Old 12-20-2016, 07:41 PM   #2
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Truly the end of an historical era for Hawaii. Understandable looking at the changes in technology, etc. but still a bit sad.
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Old 12-21-2016, 02:58 PM   #3
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For over a century, the sugar industry dominated Hawaii's economy. But that changed in recent decades as the industry struggled to keep up with the mechanization in mills on mainland U.S. That and rising labor costs have caused Hawaii's sugar mills to shut down, shrinking the industry to this one last mill.
The crux here.

Hawaii has been Democrat for a long time forcing up wages for a long time and because of the landscape a lot of the work has to be done manually.

If you want US sourced sugar, and a lot of companies do, it is easier to get it from Louisiana.

Flat terrain, lower labor costs, lower transportation cost.

No large companies to coerce as most of the sugar come from family business. http://sugarlouisiana.com/
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Old 12-21-2016, 05:01 PM   #4
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I remember the cane and pineapple fields on Oahu. Stopping by the Dole plant and getting fresh pineapple spears. Dad bringing home finger bananas that he bought from a little old Asian lady at a roadside stand.
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Old 12-21-2016, 05:14 PM   #5
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Hawaii has been Democrat for a long time forcing up wages for a long time and because of the landscape a lot of the work has to be done manually.
I'm sure that is part of the reason, but there is a lot more to it than that. The cost of living in Hawaii is outrageous. It is driven by the high cost of importing products from the mainland, seasonal residents and tourists who don't care too much about what they pay, and inflated real estate values. Hawaii is quite isolated and the population is not very high. So, establishing a local manufacturing and agricultural base is difficult - the potential market is simply not large enough and the costs of exporting to the mainland and other markets is too high. The death of this historic industry is indicative of the much larger problems that they have.
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Old 12-22-2016, 04:32 AM   #6
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My Filipino grandfater immigrated to Hawaii in 1906, and worked for the Waialua sugarmill, becoming somewhat of a sugar industtry pioneer in the field. He arranged for a wife to be sent from "back home', and a thirteen year old arrived. They had twelve kids, and now I have lots and lots of cousins.

All of the children went into careers other than sugar. My Dad joined the army and became an officer, and marrying my German mom. Each time he went to Vietnam (he was infantry), we would either go to Germany or to Hawaii to spend the year with family, finishing in the late sixties in Waialua....this time, not with the grandparents, but a few miles down the road in Mokuleia, where my Mom ran a small riding stables between the beach, the mountains, and the cane fields.

When sugarcane is ripe, after about a year and a half, it's burned in order to get the spikey and razor-sharp leaves off. The huge fires burn several acres at a time, sending flakes of charred leaves into the sky. The most glorious fires were the ones at night, as the harvest was continuous during the season ( make hay while the sun shines, winter in Hawaii is warm, but rainy), not simply the huge flames, but also the clanking chains on the giant turnato canehaul trucks, the silhouettes of the machete-wielding and bandana-masked men who hacked at the bases of the canes, the shouts of the team, all mixed with the absolute roar of the fire.

You could smell the sugar, and sugarcane stalks tasted better after being 'roasted', too. One things had cooled down a bit, the harvest began, with more chopping machetes plus a crane to lift the sooty, still delicious smelling cane into those huge trucks. Then, once at the mill, the processing into molasses and raw suger.....the entire town smelled deliciously of raw sugar.

Sometimes, I go back there, in my head and in my soul. It's easily done...one held mouthful of good raw sugar, and I'm right there, walking along Main Street (lol, yep, there was one, and probably the only street in town that didn't haveca local name), with the mill in front of me, and the sunshine blazing down. Today it has to be raw sugar, but back then, I'd be munching and sucking away at a burnt stalk of cane that had fallen from a canehaul truck. Its like bamboo, but not hollow. It has segments, like bamboo, and the sweet fiber part is between the section joints. Cut off the (like bamboo) woody peel, and take a bite of the tough interior, the chew and suck out the sweet until only the woody pulp is left. Mmmm!

There is no ordinary sugar made in Hawaii. It has to be refined. So it's shipped to California, which is where the name C&H Sugar comes from...California & Hawaii. And then it's shipped back to consumers. Sugar is one of the first things to go disappear during any dock strike action, along with salt, toilet paper and coffee, which is ironic when you know Hawaii produces sugar... AND coffee. And is surrounded by saltwater.
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