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Del Monte stops growing pineapples in Hawaii

HONOLULU (AP) _ After 90 years in the islands, Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. says it will cease pineapple operations in Hawaii in a little more than two years.

Del Monte said it was no longer economically feasible to grow pineapple in Hawaii because it can be grown for less in other parts of the world.

``It would be cheaper for Del Monte to buy pineapples on the open market than for the company to grow, market and distribute Hawaiian pineapple,'' the company said in a statement Wednesday.

Del Monte also cited difficulty in obtaining a long-term lease extension with landowner Campbell Estate.

But Campbell Estate Vice President Bert Hatton said Del Monte declined a lease extension at the then-current rent structure in 2001. The estate also offered to sell the pineapple land in three separate proposals, but Del Monte rejected them all, Hatton said.

Planting at Del Monte's Kunia plantation on Oahu was set to end Feb. 19 and the current crop will produce fruit through mid-2008, the company said.

Fred Galdones, president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 142, said he was worried about the 700 pineapple workers who will lose their jobs.

Galdones said he was also concerned with the future of the two remaining pineapple companies in Hawaii, Dole Pineapple and Maui Pineapple Co. ``I hope it's not a domino effect like it did with the sugar companies, where one had closed and the others followed suit,'' he said.

Del Monte began pineapple operations in Hawaii in 1916, when the company was called California Packing Corp.
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