Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Candy maker will
close papaya plant

Rod Thompson

HILO >> Hawaiian Host Inc. has announced it will close its papaya packing plant in Hilo on June 30.

"Business has been declining for several years due to supply and market conditions," said company president Dennis Teranishi. "We decided it was to focus 100 percent of our efforts on our core business, which is manufacturing quality macadamia nut chocolates."

Thirteen employees at the Railroad Avenue packing plant in Hilo's industrial area will receive severance packages, and the company is attempting to find them new employment.

Four other papaya packing facilities on the Big Island will be able to process the fruit Hawaiian Host has been buying from 20 independent farmers, the company said.

Emerson Llantero, manager of the Papaya Administrative Committee, said the closure doesn't reflect on the industry as a whole, which has always had ups and downs but is in a stable period at the moment.

For several years, production dropped due to ringspot disease, but that problem has improved with the introduction in 1998 of genetically engineered fruit resistant to the disease.

However a significant portion of Hawaiian Host's papayas sales have been in Japan, which does not accept the genetically engineered fruit, said company vice president Keith Sakamoto.

Compared to the chocolate macadamia portion of the company's business, the papaya plant is small, Sakamoto said.

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