Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino reviewed Mahi Pono’s conceptual plans Wednesday for agricultural development on 41,000 acres formerly used for sugar cane cultivation in Central Maui.
“Eveything’s conceptual,” Mayor Victorino told listeners and KAOI Radio host Jack Gist Thursday morning. “It gives me a lot of hope that we will see green fields out there again, raising edible crops.”
Those crops might include squash, cabbage or corn, he said, and be sold to people in Maui County, the rest of the state and the U.S. Mainland. The types of crops have not been finalized.
“I’m excited,” Mayor Victorino said. “One of the things I did mention again to them is that I want to see, if there’s 1,100 jobs, I want to see at least 1,000 Mauians working there. … Let’s make sure our people, those who live here and raise their families, have an opportunity. They assured us that they will be having a mentoring program for employees.”
In December, Alexander & Baldwin sold 41,000 acres of its former sugar cane lands in Central Maui for $262 million to Mahi Pono, a joint venture that includes a California agricultural company and a Canadian pension fund investment group.
Mayor Victorino said Mahi Pono could begin planting in three to six months, and crops could be ready for harvesting a year later. The company is working on locating and developing a processing plant on Maui, he said, and executives would come back to Maui County officials with a timetable.
Mayor Victorino said he suggested that Mahi Pono collaborate with Maui’s small-farm operators to learn from their experience and help reduce their shipping costs of materials and supplies.
“They should see how they can work together,” Mayor Victorino said.
When the former Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. operated on Maui, it would ship in large containers of supplies of PVC pipes and fertilizer, Mayor Victorino said.
“They would always leave room in shipping containers for small farmers to bring their supplies in,” Mayor Victorino added. “HC&S ate the cost. It was already bringing in the container.”
Mayor Victorino said he also discussed the possibility of Mahi Pono leasing tractors to Maui farmers.
“There’s a lot of collaboration between us, the people of Maui County, and Mahi Pono,” he said. “So, I’m excited. I’m really, really excited. However, I still have some apprehension. Like I told them yesterday, the proof is in the pudding. I’m watching. Everybody’s watching. . . . Be careful what you say because we’ll hold your feet to the fire.”