Although some sugar mills in the state will continue grinding into January, local mills have shut it down for the season.
Grinding began the last week of September at Raceland Raw Sugar and the first week of October at Lafourche Sugars. It ended this week at both mills.
Rain delayed some farmers’ planting, but Thibodaux farmer Bobby Gravois said conditions were dry for much of the grinding season. Even a snow day Dec. 8 didn’t really hurt the crop, he said.
“The tonnage was high, maybe in the mid-30s,” he said. “The sugar content was about 220 pounds per ton.”
Tonnage refers to tons of cane produced per acre of land, and sugar content is how many pounds of sugar each ton of cane produces. He said both numbers are good this year.
He makes a living off of sugar cane, but Gravois also produces a few gallons of syrup for personal use.
According to the 2016 LSU agriculture summary, there were 22 sugar-cane producers in Lafourche Parish and eight in Terrebonne Parish last year. There were 25,000 acres of sugar cane in Lafourche and 8,800 in Terrebonne.
Louisiana produces about 13 million tons of cane on more than 400,000 acres in 22 parishes, according to the Thibodaux-based American Sugar Cane League.
“Pricing is based over a 12-month period. Right now, we’re seeing prices that are decent, but we still have 11 months to go to price the current crop,” said Jim Simon, the league’s general manager. “Each mill pays a little different. In general, prices are somewhere north of 25 cents a pound. For the whole state it’s been pretty good. We’ve had pretty good sugar content and tonnage. We’ll see what the last three to four weeks hold.”
According to the league, the sugar industry has an annual economic impact of about $2 billion to growers and raw sugar factories and generates an overall economic value of about $3 billion.
Prices might be a little less than last year, Gravois said, but they’re still good.
“We’re paying our bills,” he said. “You’ve got ups and downs, like anything else. You’ve gotta stick with it.”