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Published 7:50 am, Thursday, April 5, 2018
UPPER THUMB -- Hundreds of local workers have finished the round-the-clock process of slicing sugarbeets, and Michigan Sugar Co. recently announced the final results of its 2017-18 campaign.
While quantity of the harvest decreased by more than a million tons compared to the last season, quality increased.
As a result, the region produced an equal amount of salable sugar this year and last year, according to company officials.
"While our tonnage was down this year, it was encouraging to see a rebound in our sugar content," stated Jim Ruhlman, executive vice president for Michigan Sugar Co., in a press release. "The increase in quality coupled with a lower shrink allowed us to produce as much salable sugar this year as last year."
The slicing campaign started Aug. 21, 2017, and concluded Feb. 28.
"The 2017-18 campaign was a mixture of extremes, from record heat in September to hard frosts in October and November, to weeks permanently below freezing through the winter," said David Noble, vice president of operations for Michigan Sugar Co.
Key results of the campaign include:
• Fewer sugarbeets were harvested by the company's roughly 1,000 grower-owners. This past year, 150,662 acres of sugarbeets were harvested, which was down about 7,000 acres from 2016. This is partially due to the fact that in 2017, growers were allowed to plant only 92 percent of their acres, down from 96 percent in 2016. Widely variable weather at the start of the 2017 growing season, including some areas that flooded post-planting, also was a contributing factor.
• 3.85 million tons of sugarbeets, or 25.56 tons per acre, were harvested. This was down from 4.88 million tons, or 31.03 tons per acre, in 2016.
"We saw a significant drop in 2017 in terms of the amount of sugarbeet production, partly due to excessive early season rainfall last spring followed by a very dry summer," stated Corey Guza, director of agronomy for Michigan Sugar Co., in a press release. "At the same time, there was an improvement in sugarbeet quality, and we're hoping to see better weather combine with this higher sugar content to result in a strong sugarbeet campaign in the year ahead."
Rob Clark, director of communications and community relations at Michigan Sugar Co., told the Tribune on Wednesday that Huron County is the company's No. 1 producer of sugarbeets, with 360 shareholders who grow more than 54,000 acres.
Sanilac County ranks second with 168 shareholders who produce 26,700 acres. Tuscola County ranks fourth with 130 shareholders growing 20,000 acres of sugarbeets.
Quality rebounded during the 2017-18 campaign with more typical sugar content and shrink less than half what it was during the 2016-17 campaign.
• Shrink - a decrease in the weight of beets over time due to crop respiration, weather and storage conditions - dropped to 5.28 percent from a 2016 level of 11.3 percent.
• Sugar content was 18.3 percent, up from 15.8 percent in 2016. Addressing low sugar content during the 2016 season was a major focus for Michigan Sugar's agronomy and research efforts.
More than $20 million in new upgrades were put to use for the first time this year, which includes:
• Individual investment projects that played a role in the recently completed campaign ranged in size from $85,000 to $4.42 million and covered many needs - including building improvements, employee safety measures, environmental protection and technology upgrades to boost efficiency.
• $12.5 million was dedicated to upgrading the Croswell factory capacity. This was the second year of a five-year plan to add 50 percent to the daily factory capacity and increase efficiency.
"Looking forward to the coming summer, a further $17.1 million of new capital will be invested at the four factories," stated Noble. "Of that, $12.2 million will represent the third year of Croswell's upgrade featuring new juice storage tanks, beet slicers and juice filtration equipment."
"The balance of the capital will be spent at the other locations on further infrastructure needs and process enhancements, ensuring the relationship with the Bay City, Caro, Croswell and Sebewaing communities continues strong into the future," Noble added.
The company has 1,300 seasonal employees, and 750 year-round employees, Clark said.
At the season's peak in November, the Sebewaing plant employed a total of 388 workers; Caro employed 277 people; Croswell: 337; and Bay City: 868.
Company officials said farmers plan to plant an estimated 157,000 acres this year for harvesting in the fall. Several growers took advantage of favorable weather and ground conditions a couple weeks ago to begin planting, with the first seeds going into the ground on March 19.
Sugar Beet News |
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April 9, 2018 at 09:25AM