2-9-13 The Louisiana sugar-cane industry set a new record for raw sugar production with its 2012 crop, officials from American Sugar Cane League said.
League General Manager Jim Simon first made the announcement at a two-day conference last week that was hosted by the American Sugar Cane League and the American Society of Sugar Cane Technologists in Lafayette.
“Mother Nature was good to us,” Simon said. “Our 2012 crop was our best in history.”
Simon attributed the new record to good weather and cultural practices. He said farmers endured a mild winter, dry spring and wet summer along with more efficient production techniques that allowed crops to flourish.
Last year, Louisiana’s 489 farmers and 11 sugar mills produced 1.71 million tons of raw sugar compared to the 1999 record of 1.67 million tons, Simon said. Louisiana’s harvest from the 22-parish Sugar Belt began in August and ended Jan. 15.
Though numbers for Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes were not immediately available, Wallace Ellender, a local farmer in both parishes, said his 2012 crop was his second best since 1999.
“I had a good crop despite Hurricane Isaac. I came in at the state average, and I am happy with that,” Ellender said.
Also during the conference, the league elected a new 44-member board of directors and staff to head its board.
The league elected Mike Daigle, of Thibodaux, as president; Mike Melancon, of Breaux Bridge, as vice-president; Charles Schudmak, of White Castle, as secretary and Greg Gravois, of Vacherie, as treasurer.
The board elected by the league has a huge impact on the sugar-cane industry, Simon said.
“The board provides direction and guidance for all 11 of our sugar mills and for 95 percent of our farmers in Louisiana. They give guidance and assistance for policies we want to pursue and bring to Congress,” Simon said.
The only thing that seemed to trouble the industry last year was the price of raw sugar.
“The world shortage affected domestic prices. We didn’t get many imports as normal, so prices spiked over the last two years. Since then the world rebounded. Louisiana had a record crop and Florida had a record crop, and that is causing the drop in prices,” Daigle said.
When you have too much product on the market, the price goes down, he added.
Daigle and Simon said they will remain optimistic about the price of sugar.
“It is a strong possibly this year some sugar may go in to ethanol, and this will drive prices up again. The 2008 Farm Bill expires in September, and we are optimistic Congress will pass another five years,” Daigle said.
Daigle even believes the per-pound price for next year will probably increase by 3 cents from 22 to 24 cents.
“We put out our message to Louisiana that we are viable industry. We have been here for 219 years and will continue,” Daigle said.
Staff Writer Sable LeFrere can be reached at 985-857-2204 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.