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Sugar company still seeking alternative to burning cane

By Associated Press


KAHULUI » The state's last remaining sugar company has been researching alternatives to burning leaves off its sugar cane crop before harvest.

But Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. said it hasn't found an alternative yet, The Maui News reported. For now the company needs to continue burning cane to stay in business, it said.

"We do care about what happens in the community, and we're working very hard to mitigate and minimize the impacts we have on the community, whether from smoke or whatever else," HC&S General Manager Rick Volner said at an open-house meeting this week.

More than 100 residents and company employees attended the three-hour meeting Tuesday at Maui Waena Inter­me­diate School.

Burning cane can cause plumes of smoke to drift downwind, blanketing cars and sidewalks with black ash.

Some residents believe the smoke contributes to a flare-up of asthma and other acute respiratory diseases, especially in young children.

One resident asked why HC&S does not practice an alternative method known as mechanical green harvesting, which would not require cane burning.

Volner said the company has tried the method. It purchased two "top-of-the-line" John Deere harvesters several years ago to collect sugar cane without burning, but the sloped terrain and rocks characteristic of HC&S fields have resulted in "significantly reduced yield" of sugar cane crop, making it not "economically viable," he said.

The company, which owns 36,000 acres on Maui, burns an average of 400 acres per week during its nine-month burn season. The season began March 13.

Experts have tried for years to determine whether cane burning on Maui has led to an increase in respiratory illnesses, though the prevalence of volcanic smog, or "vog," rainy weather and other factors have made it nearly impossible.

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tutulois wrote:
They harvest cane in Eastern Australia -- many miles of it not far from the coast -- without burning. Have for years.
on April 19,2014 | 04:10AM
Kuokoa wrote:
why don't you go there and bring back the technology?
on April 19,2014 | 08:35AM
Slow wrote:
It is difficult to feel anything but a tiny bit of nostalgia about the sugar cane industry. Anyone in Ewa miss what some used to call "black snow?" I applaud efforts to increase local food production. And Maui Land and Pine is a significant employer. Also sugar is virtually a poison with zero health benefits. Stop the burning. Aloha pineapple and now aloha sugar.
on April 19,2014 | 07:10AM
Kuokoa wrote:
Sugar has more uses than just as a sweetner.
on April 19,2014 | 08:36AM
sluggah wrote:
The only people Maui Pine employs are Real Estate salespeople. They are selling off their assets. So much for "local stewardship", thanks, Steve Case and David Cole for gutting Maui Pine.
on April 19,2014 | 08:37AM
Kuokoa wrote:
I remember when I was growing up on a sugar plantation on the Big Island that the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association (HSPA) did some testing of harvesting equipment that would not require burning first. It failed. The yield of the harvest dropped. Sugar canes grows in rows like corn but as the stocks mature where the sugar juice is they fall over in all directions making it difficult to harvest amont all the leaves. Burning the leaves away makes it more efficient to harvest.Those of us who lived here all our lives and grew up on sugar plantations know this.
on April 19,2014 | 08:43AM
sailfish1 wrote:
They do all this open burning and then people complain about emissions from power plants and cars which use pollution control equipment. This kind of burning also probably goes on in all the third world countries.
on April 19,2014 | 02:44PM
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