Dole says it may cut crops, jobs because of vandalism

HONOLULU (AP) — Ongoing vandalism to crops and equipment has Dole Food Co.

considering a cutback in its Oahu operations, and that will mean a loss of

jobs.

Vandalism losses totaled $105,000 last year, and officials are

looking at reducing the amount of fruit that is grown, the company

said.

Dole moved into diversified agriculture after shutting down its sugar

operations at Waialua plantation in 1996, and now has reached a critical

juncture, said Mike Conway, who is in charge of all crops except

pineapple.

Annual losses of $100,000 or more every year take their toll,

even on a big company like Dole, Conway said.

“We’re saying certain things

aren’t worth doing anymore,” he said. “We’ve started a process of reductions in

some areas, like papaya.”

Part of the reason is the crops are generating

enough revenue, Conway said, then added it’s easier to consider reductions when

the vandalism is factored in.

“It makes it easier to say, no matter what we

do, we’re going to suffer losses,” he said.

The latest incident of

vandalism occurred July 16, when a group of people destroyed the tops of 100

papaya trees, and also smashed irrigation valves, a total of $5,500 damage. It

was the third incident in eight months at the field mauka of the Pa’ala’a Kai

subdivision in Waialua, Conway said.

In other incidents at that field,

vandals have smashed tractor windows, destroyed plants and irrigation

equipment. In other areas, vandals drove a tractor into a reservoir and swiped

a roof off of a pump house.

Ten workers were laid off last week, partly

because of losses to the papaya crop.

Dole employs about 250 people to grow

pineapple and 100 more to operate its diversified agriculture fields, Conway

said.

“I want to send a message to the community this is the last chance

for a big company to create a lot of jobs,” Conway said. “If we start closing

stuff down, there’s no one that can readily come in on these agricultural

lands.

“People are going to be hurt.”

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