WAILUKU - Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. is offering new options for Maui residents to learn - in advance - where and when sugar cane harvesting will happen.
The company's website at www.hcsugar.com has a Google map of Central Maui with highlighted areas that show the time, date and location of burning operations.
Maui residents can sign up for cane burning alerts via Nixle text messages on their cellphones. To get text messages, text the word "sugar" to 888777. Residents also can get alerts via email.
Crews harvest an Omaopio sugar cane field last week.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
"Farming is a challenging business, and we are trying hard to reduce the impact of noise, dust and smoke, all of which are invariably part of the farming process," said HC&S General Manager Rick Volner Jr. in a March 30 letter to Maui residents.
"We are determined to keep our 36,000 acres in green cultivation, and our family of 800 workers employed," he said. "Please know our focus continues to be on the long-term, always with Maui and our neighbors' best interests at heart."
The letter was sent to Upcountry, Central Maui and South Maui residents, according to Linda Howe, community relations manager for HC&S' parent company, Alexander & Baldwin.
The sugar harvesting season began earlier this month, marking HC&S' 140th harvest.
The company's website also has a section for frequently asked questions. One answer explains why fire is used to remove the 20 to 25 percent of the sugar cane plant that is leafy material with very little sugar.
The explanation says that the leafy material reduces the amount of sucrose that can be recovered at the sugar mill. Burning also reduces the amount of material that needs to be hauled to the factory for processing.
"Burning, in the field, is the only economical means HC&S has found to date of removing the dried leafy material from its crop," the website says. "At present, there is no technology available to cost-effectively produce energy from cane leaves. The energy cost of hauling and processing this additional material is higher than the value of the additional energy that could be produced from burning it."
Cane burning is allowed by the state with a permit granted by the Department of Health.
This month, the department fined HC&S $2,400 for burning 25 acres of cane in a Kahului field by mistake in November. The company had reported the error.
For a recorded message describing the most current location and timing of cane burning, call 877-6963.