NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana farmers set a record this year for the amount of sugar per ton of cane harvested, but it’s not a record harvest, says LSU AgCenter sugar specialist Kenneth Gravois.
Louisiana mills produced nearly 1.6 million tons of sugar in 2016 — up from the previous year’s 1.4 million tons, but below the 2012 record of 1.7 million, he said.
Each ton of sugar cane produced a record 246 pounds of sugar, beating the 2012 mark of 232 pounds per ton.
“We’re right about where the market expects us in sugar production. So it’s a pretty good crop,” Gravois said in an interview.
Louisiana generally has the nation’s second-largest sugar crop, behind Florida, with Hawaii and Texas far behind. Hawaii’s last sugar plantation expects to wind up its final harvest next week. Gravois said Florida and Texas probably won’t finish harvesting their 2016 crops until April.
“Florida’s got a little bit less acreage, but their per-acre yield is higher,” Gravois said. “Florida may produce close to 2 million tons.”
Louisiana’s record mark for sugar per ton of cane more than offset a drop from 2015 of nearly 2 tons per acre in the weight of cane produced, Gravois said.
He said last year’s crop averaged 31.5 tons per acre, compared to 33.2 tons in 2015.
Prices remained steady, at about 26 cents a pound, Gravois said.
Gravois said future crops might suffer because planting was delayed by heavy rain in August, followed by months of dry weather.
About 6.5 percent of each year’s acreage is used as seed cane, he said. If seed cane is straight and tall, each acre harvested can plant 5 to 8 acres of land. And each planting of the giant grass can be harvested for three to five years.
“We’re going to have some spotty stands of plant cane,” Gravois said.