USDA’s initial estimate of 2010 U.S. sugar beet production placed this year’s crop size at more than 31.9 million tons — up about 8% from the 2009 crop production level. The November report number was based on an average yield of 27.7 tons off 1,153,500 harvested acres.
The forecast 2010 average yield is two tons higher than the final yield for 2009. Harvested acreage was up slightly from 2009.
At an estimated 11.9 million tons, Minnesota remains far and away the nation’s largest producer of sugarbeets. North Dakota is currently estimated at 5.6 million tons this year, followed by Idaho at 5.15 million and Michigan at 3.9 million tons.
Four states — Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska and Oregon — were forecast to end up with less production this year versus 2009.
The next estimate of 2010 crop production will be released in January.
The November USDA report placed national sugarcane production (for both sugar and seed) at 29.4 million tons — which would be down by more than a million tons from 2009. Florida remains the leading cane producer, followed by Louisiana.
There’s no stockpiling of beets in California’s Imperial Valley, given harvest-time temperatures that often top 100 degrees. The harvest season typically stretches from April until early August, with growers operating off carefully scripted daily quotas desinged to ensure that the Spreckels Sugar factory at Brawley can process all beets within 12 hours of delivery.
The 2009/10 growing season provided
a real test — in a good way — for growers and processor alike. The average yield for this year’s 25,188 Imperial Valley harvested acres was 43.91 tons per acre. Coupled with a sugar content averaging 17.26% and an 88.71% purity, the crop produced 15,061 pounds of gross sugar per acre and 12,508 pounds of extractable sugar.
With overall output like that, perhaps it’s not too surprising that the 2010 harvest also witnessed a new world record in terms of gross sugar per acre across an entire field. Even more impressive, however, is that the old record (21,140 pounds/acre, set in 2004) was topped by no fewer than nine Imperial Valley growers this year.
Among them is the new record holder, Ralph Taylor. His 144-acre record-setting field averaged 69.63 tons per acre, 17.63% sugar and 88.9% purity, for a gross sugar total of 24,552 pounds per acre. That topped the former record by more than 3,400 pounds.
But there’s more. Between them, Taylor and his son Jason — who together annually produce just over 2,000 acres of beets — harvested three fields this past summer that exceeded the previous world record for gross sugar per acre.
So what was the formula behind this eye-popping productivity?
Favorable weather, a strong variety, an exceptional plant stand — and some tweaking of the irrigation schedule toward the end of the season — sum it all up, according to Taylor.
That 144-acre field was seeded to the Holly Hybrids variety Coronado (which went on half of Taylor’s 2009/10 beet acreage — the other half being planted to Phoenix, another Holly variety). Taylor says he took a chance by placing the newer variety on such a large percentage of his acreage. “But I’d grown about 10 acres (of Coronado) the year before, and it went through a hot spell and still came out with good sugar and pretty good tonnage,” he explains. “So I felt pretty comfortable. Luckily, it turned out in my favor.”
Reflecting the impact of recent sugar policy reforms, the EU-27 has shifted to become one of the world’s leading sugar net-importers. The reforms are also affecting countries that benefit from preferential access to the EU market. Despite trade reforms, lower internal prices and a restructuring of the sugarbeet industry, the EU remains the world’s largest beet sugar producer
Left: Part of the 2010 Harvest Festival crowd enjoyed riding on a trailer behind a two-row John Deere as it dug beets from the museum’s demonstration area
The Red River Valley Sugarbeet Museum at Crookston, Minn., drew a nice crowd to its 6th annual Harvest Festival on a sunny Sunday afternoon in mid-September. Along with numerous stationary exhibits of old-time sugarbeet production and harvesting equipment, the event featured the actual digging of beets with harvesters of an earlier era.
The U.S. sugarbeet industry lost a true champion last summer with the passing of Craig Anderson. The longtime Colorado grower and former president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association passed away on July 19 at the age of 87.
The following tribute to Craig was delivered by Alan Welp, a fellow Coloradoan and ASGA’s immediate past president, at the 2010 International Sweetener Symposium held in early August in Vail, Colo.
It’s an wonderful tribute to an outstanding individual. I had the opportunity to become well acquainted with Craig during visits to his farm near Longmont, as well as at ASGA meetings and on other occasions. He was an exceptionally gracious person. As Alan says, he had a huge heart and was a great friend to everyone. A wonderful man. — Don Lilleboe
Rising production costs and growing ethanol use in Brazil,
combined with policy-induced production swings across Asian countries,
are the main sources of higher and more-volatile sugar prices.
By Michael McConnell, Erik Dohlman & Stephen Haley*
World sugar prices soared to a 29-year high of nearly 30 cents a pound in early 2010 before falling back to half that level by early summer.** Still, they remain 50% higher than average over the past 20 years. Was this price spike a temporary oscillation caused by a supply shock, or does it reflect a more permanent fundamental shift in global market dynamics?
U.S. sugar prices have traditionally been far above and largely independent of world prices due to import restrictions and provisions of the U.S. sugar program (price supports and domestic marketin allotments). In particular, a tariff-rate quota (TRQ) insulate the domestic market from global price spikes by putting a ceiling on the quantity of sugar that the U.S. is required to import, so domestic prices are set primarily by internal supply and demand conditions.
Editor & General Manager of The Sugarbeet Grower