SHUTTING DOWN — A truck loaded with bagasse leaves the LaSuCa mill at St. John on the final day of the 2019 harvest season last Tuesday, Dec. 31. A hard feeze in mid-November contributed to an early end to grinding and resulted in slightly less tonnage and sugar yield than had been projected at the start of the harvest back in September. (Karl Jeter)
2019 crop: Tonnage, sugar down
The LaSuCa mill at St. John processed its last load of sugarcane on Dec. 31, finishing its season about two weeks sooner than had been expected when grinding began in mid-September.
The final tally of cane processed and sugar recovered did not quite live up to pre-season expectations when the coop hoped to take in as much as 1.58 million tons of cane.
LaSuCa General Manager Mike Comb said Monday that the final tally showed the mill processed 1,423,636 tons of cane that yielded 308,028,371 pounds of sugar.
This compares to the 2018 total of 1,503,919 tons of cane ground with a yield of 312,354,791 pounds of sugar.
The total tonnage was down despite the fact that the mill drew cane from a larger number of acres this year.
Comb believes that a major factor in the drop in tonnage was the hard freeze that hit the area in mid-November.
After the usual two-week break, work will begin on the next phase of the mill’s multi-year expansion. The 2020 season will be the first year that a new tandem mill and two new boilers will come on line and will mark the biggest increase in mill’s capacity brought about by the expansion, Comb said.
Those improvements and others currently underway will grow the mill’s capacity from this year’s 13,700 tons per day to about 17,000 per day, so the cane acreage earmarked to be processed at the St. John mill will continue to increase.
The first phases of the expansion began after the 2017 season. Before the current upgrades began, the mill’s capacity was 12,500 tons per day. Off-season upgrades will continue to keep plant personnel and contractors busy for about three more years.
Comb concluded by saying sugar prices are holding steady. “Prices are stable, not great, but I guess you could say they’re good enough.”