Sun Slowly Sets On Islands' Once-Blooming Pineapple Industry

Reed Travel Features

HONOLULU -- If sugar was king when it was the top industry, then pineapple was queen.

Pineapple, though, has gone much the same way as sugar, a casualty of high costs, although there have been no plantation closures during the past several years.

It remains Hawaii's second biggest agricultural product, bringing in $80 million a year, as compared with sugar's $150 million.

It is the largest fruit product for Oahu and Maui (on the Big Island, it ranks behind papaya).

Pineapple didn't really get going until James Dole came to town in 1900.

He began growing pineapple on Oahu's central plain, expanded the acreage, canned and exported it, in the process making Hawaiian pineapple famous.

In the early 1920s, he bought most of the island of Lanai, making it into the world's biggest pineapple plantation.

Dole Food Co. ended pineapple production on the Pineapple Island in 1992.

By then it was into resorts -- its two luxury Lanai hotels -- Manele Bay Hotel and the Lodge at Koele had opened.

Dole Cannery, the last of Oahu's three pineapple canneries, also closed in 1992, and Dole's pineapple acreage in central Oahu shrank.

The cannery became a Hawaiian products pineapple-themed shopping center, which now is being expanded with factory outlet stores.

Dole Food Co. still has 5,500 acres planted in pineapple in central Oahu and exports the product as fresh fruit. It also maintains the Dole Plantation visitor attraction there.

Del Monte Fresh Produce continues to have almost 10,000 acres in pineapple in central Oahu.

Against the trend, it added 600 pineapple acres in the past two year and is seeking to expand on former sugar cane land.

On Maui, Maui Land and Pine (owner of West Maui's 1,500-acre Kapalua Resort) grows pineapple in both west and central Maui and operates Hawaii's last pineapple cannery.

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