It’s Sugarcane Burn Season again! Once again Central, South and Upcountry Maui residents will get to wake up with burning eyes and scratchy throats as Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar burns its 15,439 acres over the next few months.
According to the copy of the 61-page Agricultural Burning Permit HC&S filed with the state of Hawaii Department of Health (which hilariously identifies the location of the burns as “SUGARCANE FIELS [sic] AS INDICATED ON CURRENT MAP, MAUI” in giant type on the permit’s first page) that MauiTime obtained, the company wants the burning to commence on Mar. 20.
Many people have asked me over the years why HC&S burns sugarcane in the fields as part of the harvesting process. HC&S officials field exactly that question (sorry for the pun) in the permit. When asked for the reason for the burn in the permit application, HC&S Plantation General Manager Rick W. Volner, Jr. gave the explanation to such a complex question in a scant 15 words:
“Difficult to harvest and process unburned cane, need to minimize trash transported to the mill.”
Volner added that the materials workers will burn include “Leafy cane trash adhering to cane stalks and shed on the ground.”
HC&S is a 125-year company that, according to the company website, produces up to 200,000 tons of sugar every year, which it processes at the Puunene Mill on Maui. In 1898, HC&S joined Alexander & Baldwin, which did $1.72 billion in business last year.
Oh, and because HC&S intends to burn more than 1,000 acres, the burn permit filing fee was $1,500.
PHOTO: Rob and Stephanie Levy/Wikimedia Commons