(Feb. 2) Del Monte pineapples, once a major component of Hawaii’s roster of fruits and vegetables, soon will be no more.

Fresh Del Monte Produce NA Inc. says that it is closing its pineapple-growing operations on the islands in December 2008.

It comes down to cost, according to the Coral Gables, Fla.-based company, which says it can grow pineapples more cheaply elsewhere.

So a 90-year-history of pineapple production in Hawaii will come to an end.

“It would be cheaper for Del Monte to buy pineapples on the open market than for the company to grow, market and distribute Hawaiian pineapple,” the company said Feb. 1 in a news release.

There were lease problems in Hawaii, as well, the company said.

Fresh Del Monte, which grows its gold extra-sweet pineapples in Hawaii, said it could not get a long-term lease extension on 5,700 acres it had been renting from the Campbell Estate in Kunia, on the island of Oahu. The current lease, Fresh Del Monte said, dates to 1995.

Company spokeswoman Christina Cannella declined to comment on negotiations on the lease extension, nor would she provide any figures on the company’s pineapple volume from Hawaii.

However, The Associated Press quoted Campbell Estate vice president Bert Hatton as saying Del Monte had declined a lease extension in 2001. He also told the AP Fresh Del Monte turned down three different proposals to sell the land to the company.

Fresh Del Monte also grows pineapples in Costa Rica, Brazil and the Philippines.

Planting in Hawaii is scheduled to conclude Feb. 19, and the current crop will produce fruit through mid-2008, the company said.