by: Darren Pai
(KHNL) - In February, Del Monte announced it would phase out its Hawaii operations and shut down in 2008. On Friday the company announced its closing immediately.
"It's all up in the air right now. Unfortunately all this had to happen close to the holidays," said state Rep. Mike Magaoay.
The company said the production of pineapple is significantly lower than its initial projections. Del Monte said that combined with a drop in pineapple prices has hurt the company.
"It's not a good time of the year to do that obviously. The timing couldn't have been worse from our standpoint," said Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.
Government leaders said they're scrambling to see what they can do to help the 551 workers who stand to lose their jobs and their homes.
"Obviously we are very concerned and we're trying to find a solution where we can best help," Hannemann said. "But the decision seems to be irreversible at this point."
State and city agencies said they have been working with plantation employees to help them find other jobs. The state Labor Department plans to send more people to Kunia next to see what can be done for the workers.