Louisiana’s 2015 sugar cane harvest was a wet, muddy mess, farmers and industry experts said late last week, as the last of the state’s 11 sugar mills were finishing up grinding for the season.
"It’s been nasty. We’ve had a tough year,” said Jim Simon, general manager of the American Sugar Cane League.
Despite the challenges, though, this year’s crop yields have been decent, and the going 24 cents per pound sugar is getting now is decent, too.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated Louisiana’s 465 cane growers would produce 1.45 million tons of raw sugar from the 2015 crop, Simon said. However, he estimated that 10 percent to 15 percent was lost because of the weather.
For growers, spring 2015 was too wet, then came weeks of no rain during the summer that left fields parched. Still, as summer moved to the autumn harvest season, the weather looked like it would cooperate.
"The first couple of weeks in October, we were on a record pace to have a good crop,” Simon said. "Then Mother Nature decided she had a different outlook, and it started to rain.
Hurricane Patricia, a Pacific Ocean storm, came ashore in western Mexico on Oct. 23. A few days later came strong winds and heavy rain.
"That made it muddy, and it blew the cane down,” said Kenny Gravois, a sugar cane specialist with the LSU AgCenter. "It went from ideal to way less than ideal pretty quickly.
"And it just kept raining,” he said.
Farmers were helped by low fuel costs this year, Gravois said, but the extra profit that should have been realized was eaten up by tractors and trucks that burned up so much diesel trudging through the muddy fields.
"It’s a good thing fuel was cheap,” he said.
by Billy Gunn, Advocate Reporter
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Photo above by Sam Irwin, ASCL