Hamakua Springs to Shut Down Operations
Hamakua Springs Country Farms and Maunakea Banana Company will shut down operations in March.
The announcement came this week from President and company owner Richard Ha, who says he informed his employees on Wednesday that the 600-acre farm is planning to cease operations.
On Thursday, Ha wrote on the company’s website blog that the bananas currently being bagged would be the last of the farm’s operations. The crop is expected to be ready in March.
The Big Island farm’s announcement follows Wednesday’s Alexander & Baldwin announcement that its sugar plantation operations would cease on Maui, bringing an end to the sugar plantation era in Hawai’i.
A&B announced that it would transition its 36,000 acre sugar plantation on Maui, noting that the continued losses were not sustainable.
Ha says transition is the right word to use for what the company is also currently doing.
While the reasoning, involving heightened production costs eating away at profit margins, is similar across the board, Ha notes that oil prices have been the most difficult challenge the company faced.
“It’s all related to the price of oil. As the oil price has risen, folks that could pass on the cost did, but farmers cannot,” Ha wrote. “When the oil price dropped recently, the cost of fertilizer, plastic, all sorts of things that have oil petroleum costs embedded in their prices, didn’t come down with it. Those costs stayed up.
“The oil price will go back up again, and anticipating that we had to make a decision. It’s not that we’re going bankrupt – we’re not. We just need to do what we need to do before it gets to that point.”
Ha hopes that a group applying for a license to grow and distribute medical marijuana will end up leasing the land and the hydroelectric system.
The fourth generation family owner says the decision and interest in leasing the land is for the security of employment for his currently crews.
“I told this other group that before I even considered leasing to them I’d need assurance they would give my workers first shot at jobs,” Ha said. “They said they would. I also made some conditions regarding security. We are talking but we haven’t signed any agreements about any of it yet.”
Ha said he has told workers that they could take a layoff and leave the company at their choosing if they felt looking for immediate employment was what they needed to do.
“They all said they will stick it out to the end,” Ha said.