Amfac Sugar suspends new planting

LIHU’E – Around one-fourth of Amfac Sugar Kaua’i’s 400 employees will be furloughed for three to four months.

Most of the 100 or so furloughs were effective yesterday, mainly for those responsible for planting sugar fields, as the company has decided to suspend planting new sugar cane at its Kaua’i farms (formerly Kekaha Sugar Company and Lihu’e Plantation Co.) for at least the next three months.

Employees got the word last Friday.

A steep drop in world sugar prices, smaller yields from the farms and short-term effects of delays in closing certain land deals led the company to decide not to plant new sugar cane at its farms for at least the third quarter of this year (July through September).

“We will be assessing the long-term viability of sugaron Kaua’i before making a final decision on whether to resume planting,” saidGary Grottke, president of Amfac/JMB Hawai’i, parent company of Amfac SugarKaua’i.

Over the next several months, Amfac management will analyze theeconomic factors impacting sugar and the company’s situation, hesaid.

“Local management has been given the opportunity to develop a plan toaddress the lower prices and yields that we have been experiencing,” hecontinued. “Hopefully, an acceptable plan can be put together.”“Thecompany will continue to harvest and mill sugar that has already been planted,and attending to standing crop and farm infrastructure,” said Jim Boersema,company spokesman.

“This action will result in the furlough of about 100employees for approximately three to four months,” Boersema said.

Theworkers were all informed of Amfac’s actions late Friday afternoon. During thefurlough period, they will continue to receive benefits as provided for underAmfac’s contract with the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Union(ILWU).

They will also be eligible for unemployment compensation, subjectto state regulations.

Including management and staff, Amfac Sugar Kaua’i currently employs over 400 people.

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