Syngenta sells Hawaii sites

KEKAHA — An Iowa company is taking over the Hawaii Syngenta sites, including the location on Kauai’s Westside, but day-to-day activities will stay the same, according to company representatives.

The purchase agreement between Hartung Brothers, Inc. and Syngenta was announced Thursday. The deal should close by the end of June for an undisclosed amount.

“There are no planned reductions (in staff) resulting from this,” said Paul Minehart, Syngenta spokesman.

Syngenta’s Kauai location employs about 100 people.

Hartung Brothers, Inc., is a seed company founded in Madison,Wisc., in 1975, that has been providing seed corn production, processing and distribution services to Syngenta since the 1980s.

“We are extremely pleased to have this agreement with Hartung Brothers for our Hawaii sites,” said Ed Attema, Syngenta head of Global Seed Operations, Production & Supply in a press release. “The goal has been to have our employee talent base and facilities maintained and to contract work with the new owner, and that will be achieved.”

All employees will be offered employment by Hartung when the acquisition closes, according to the release.

Part of the agreement includes Syngenta contracting current Hawaii-based seed production activities from Hartung. According to the release, the purchase “ensures ongoing crop innovation will continue to be part of Hawaii agriculture, which plays an important role in food production for the U.S. and around the world.”

Bennette Misalucha, executive director of Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, welcomed the new agribusiness to the Hawaii agriculture community.

“Hartung Brothers, Inc.’s purchase of Syngenta’s Hawaii operations will ensure the preservation of jobs and continuation of seed production activities on Oahu and Kauai,” Misalucha said.

Activists who have been asking the state to regulate pesticide use by the agribusiness companies on the Westside are keeping an eye on the sale, hoping to see a change in practices.

“It would be refreshing if a company came in, grew something non-toxic and profitable, (so) that we could have jobs that are safe from continual pesticide exposure,” said Jeri Di Pietro, of Hawaii SEED.

Di Pietro said she hopes Hartung Brothers will use practices that remedies the soil.

“Even the worst soil can be made healthy again, we need to see what this new company has in mind,” she said.

In August, Syngenta Seeds announced a potential $43 billion sale of the company to China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina) and the deal between the state-owned ChemChina and the Swiss-owned Syngenta is nearing completion.

In a Wednesday announcement, the two companies said the takeover has won support from about 80 percent of Syngenta’s shareholders.

The transaction required 67 percent of shareholders to accept the acquisition. According to a timeline provided by the companies, the first half of the settlement will be paid on May 18 and the second half will be paid on June 7.

ChemChina is headquartered in Beijing and owns production, research and development, and marketing systems in 150 countries and regions.

Since the August announcement of the pending sale, Hawaii locations have been exempt from the deal by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment.

Even so, Syngenta officials have been planning to sell its operations on Oahu and Kauai since the announcement of the possible ChemChina buyout in August.

The purpose was to pursue a different operating model by contracting Hawaii-based seed production activities with the new owner, according to a news release, while maintaining a commitment to developing agricultural innovation in Hawaii.

This isn’t the first time Syngenta has entertained the idea of selling or merging the company. In August 2015, Monsanto abandoned a $47 billion proposed takeover of the company.

Though Hartung is taking over the reins at Syngenta’s Hawaii locations, the family owned agribusiness plans to keep the focus on providing customers with quality seeds and services, as well as maintaining a strong workforce.

“Our company is very much a family business rooted in the work ethic instilled in us by our parents Lorna and Galen Hartung,” said Dan Hartung, president, Hartung Brothers, Inc. “We are excited about the opportunities this acquisition will bring our current customers.”

He continued: “It will also allow us to expand our customer base with new capabilities. We are very impressed with the current Hawaii management team and employees. Their dedication, knowledge and pride shows in all they do.”

Syngenta works about 4,000 acres on Oahu and Kauai for inbred and hybrid seed production sites and was established in Hawaii in the late 1960s.

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