Hamakua Sugar Co. to close one of its 2 mills in next 14 months


POSTED: Sunday, December 13, 2009

HONOKAA, Hawaii » Hamakua Sugar Co. will close one of its two mills within 14 months as an economy move, said Jack Poppe, the company's executive vice president.

There will be no reduction of the company's 35,100 acres planted in sugar cane, he said. The only reduction of employees planned now will be through attrition, he said.

Under the plan, the company's Ookala mill, halfway between Hilo and Honokaa, would be closed by late 1986 or early 1987, Poppe said. The capacity of the more modern mill at Haina, a mile downslope from Honokaa, will be increased to handle cane now milled at Ookala, he said.

The consolidation will result in a “;significant cost reduction,”; he said.

The Haina mill now has a capacity to produce 125,000 tons of sugar a year, Poppe said. It will be expanded next year to produce 175,000 tons a year, and further expansion over the next decade will bring its capacity to 200,000 tons a year, he said.

Both the Haina and Ookala mills now operate below their capacity, 39 weeks a year, five days a week, he said. The expanded Haina mill will operate 46 weeks a year, seven days a week, he said.

The Ookala mill now employs about 90 people, Poppe said. Overall, the company has about 940 workers, he said.