Posted by: The Amoeba | November 4, 2009

Pining for Pineapples

OK, out there, hands up? How many of you hear “Hawai‘i” and think “pineapples”?

Think again.

For the best part of a century, pineapples and sugar cane were the cash crops of the Hawai‘ian Islands. At one point, the entire island of Lana‘i was one large pineapple plantation. Many (most?) of the peoples of Hawai‘i who are not of Polynesian or European descent (in particular the Japanese and the Filipinos) came to the islands to harvest the cane or the pineapples.

Those days are done. With today’s announcement that the Maui Land Company is ending pineapple operations, only one plantation remains, on the island of O‘ahu. And that plantation exists primarily for the tourists. The Honolulu building that used to house the principal cannery for Hawai‘ian pineapple is now a commercial complex with some museum-like displays recounting its past.

That more-or-less fresh pineapple in your supermarket fruit-and-vegetables section probably came from Thailand, or the Philippines, or Brazil, not Hawai‘i.


Why else?

Brazil, Thailand, and the Philippines all produce pineapples far more cheaply than Hawai‘i can.

In fact, the Hawai‘ian Islands now have very little agriculture. It simply costs too much for labor, fertilizer, feed. Far cheaper to bring in the finished products from places that don’t have (or ignore) minimum wage laws.

In the current economic downturn, which has affected Hawai‘i less than most of the rest of the Untied States of America (its current 7.2% unemployment rate would be gratefully accepted as a world-changing improvement by Michigan, California, Oregon and most of the Southeast), folk are wrangling over furloughs, pay cuts, and other things that may impact their standard of living a few points. Not realizing, perhaps, that if the cargo planes were ever to stop flying, Hawai‘ians would, almost immediately, have something truly substantial to worry about.


  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.



  1. Don’t you have a port there somewhere?

    • Yep. And even interstate highways. Though I wouldn’t recommend trying to find an exit to the H-1 on the Santa Monica Freeway. But no train stations. And if the planes aren’t flying, how are the boats steaming? And it may take awhile to rediscover how to build clipper ships.

  2. What timing; I just cut up a pineapple an hour ago for breakfast, and noticed it was from Costa Rica. Usually our fruit comes from the Mediterranean, especially Spain or Israel; recently that’s changed to Asia and Central/S. America.

    A generation ago, Ireland was mostly farms and livestock. As in, almost entirely farms and livestock, owned and run by families. Since joining the EU, many farmers have accepted subsidies to switch their land to forestry or eco-fuels and other uses, as farming simply didn’t pay: Irish beef, lamb, eggs etc couldn’t compete with cheap imports anymore. So here we are in a recession, people losing jobs, and we can’t feed ourselves except with imports. We depend on tourism, but as an island we also depend on those planes to bring the tourists in. When tourists cut back, so do we.

    • Susan, in ancient feudal societies, there were landlords and serfs. In modern tourist societies there are … landlords and serfs. The serfs have just changed uniforms.

  3. But they can drink some mighty fine coffee while they’re starving!

    That really is sad… you DO think Hawaii when you think pineapple… How is the coconut industry?

    • ????

      Sorry, Melli. Another illusion shattered.

    • The coconut industry is in the Philippines, alongside the pineapples, Melli. Oh … you said how

  4. My grandparents on both sides immigrated to Hawaii as plantation workers. Yes, I am 3rd generation Korean-American.

    Actually, just my maternal grandfather and paternal grandparents arrived as laborers. My maternal grandmother was a picture bride and when she arrived to marry my grandfather, he already had left the plantation and opened a country store. Later, they bought real estate — the apt building and house opposite Alan Wong’s Restaurant on S. King St and the apt bldg opposite Hard Rock Cafe — and died millionaires.

    My paternal grandparents, on the other hand, died paupers and left nothing to their descendants.

    All of this info and more are in my books, which I will give to Quilly when I see her before too long.

    • Gigi — I am looking forward to reading the history of Hawaii from a personal view point.

    • Fascinating, Gigi. But I’m a little concerned about the ‘left nothing to their descendants’ bit. If I worried about that, I’d spend a lot of time grousing about my one grandfather who died young of tuberculosis (‘just like a filthy mick’), leaving grandma (who was not ‘of the faith’ so got no support from hubby’s relations) to raise kids on her own. Or my other grandfather, who came from a long line of men whose only legacy was the line on their death certificates, ‘died of drink’, and but narrowly escaped the same fate. I think we all do the best we can; for only some of us is ‘our best’ given an account number in a Swiss bank.

      • The millionaire grandpa was an orphan in North Korea, so his rags to riches story is even more astounding — whereas the pauper grandpa came from a wealthy family. His father was the mayor of his village in South Korea.

      • Gigi — that is actually quite common. The poor man’s child learns to work. The rich man’s child has no need to. Then, when both men are adults left to fend for themselves, one knows how and the other doesn’t. (Of course, these are generalities and don’t apply to every person in every instance.)

  5. Hello O’Ceallaigh!

    I’m tilden talks niece, I think we spoke once or twice before. I liked your blog on pineapples 🙂

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