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Grinding time — An 18-wheeler load of sugar cane dumps its cargo at the LaSuCa mill at St. John earlier this week. Grinding got off to a smooth start and the mill is expected to complete harvest of the 2017 crop in early January. Motorists are cautioned to be wary of the big trucks and cane carts making their way to the mill located on La. 347/Resweber Hwy between St. Martinville and Parks.(Karl Jeter)

Sugar harvest off to a favorable start

The 2017 harvest of the parish’s sugar cane crop appears to be off to a good start, says County Agent Stuart Gauthier.
The LaSuCa mill at St. John cranked up last Wednesday, Sept. 20, for a season that is expected to stretch well into December.
“The current weather is very similar to what we were seeing at the beginning of last year’s harvest,” Gauthier said Tuesday. “But the crop is a bit different,” he added. “Last year we saw tonnage a bit on the low side but the sugar content was high. So far this year we’ve got decent tonnage but the sugar is not quite as high.”
Early fields are yielding in the upper 20 tons to low 30s per acre, with sugar averaging around 200 pounds per ton.
“Keep in mind,” says Gauthier, “that farmers usually start cutting in their weaker fields first. And the cane is just starting to ripen. Cooler weather should help to raise the sugar content.”
Sugar prices are favorable, currently running in the 26 to 28 cents per pound range. But Gauthier pointed out that sugar is marketed throughout the year, so the price can fluctuate.
Farmers have pretty much completed planting, thanks to a very dry September.
The fields that were planted in recent weeks could use a light rain as September has seen less than a half inch on average.
The Sept. 20 start of grinding was one of the earliest in some time “but we’re seeing promising results and the mill is running well” says Gauthier. “Most of our farmers are pretty optimistic at this point.”

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