- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The American Sugar Cane League predicts the 2016 cane crop shows good potential and could pass last year’s 1.4 million tons of raw sugar.

Senior Agronomist Herman Waguespack said as the prime sugarcane growing season begins, farmers from central and across south Louisiana report good spring stands of sugar cane despite the abnormally wet winter of 2015.

“It was feared the rutted fields created by the 2015 wet harvest conditions would damage cane roots but milder weather allowed farmers to get into the fields to drain water and repair rows,” Waguespack said. The ruts appear to have had less impact in stubble fields than anticipated, he said. Stubble is the term cane farmers use to describe the regrowth from the roots of sugarcane stalks that had been previously planted.

“Since sugarcane is a grass and will continue to grow just like a lawn, farmers can often get three or four years’ worth of crops from one planting depending on how vigorously the stubble regrows after the cane has been harvested,” Waguespack said.

The majority of acreage planted last season looks exceptionally good for this time of the year, he said.

Cane farmers are in the process of fertilizing the crop. The recent April downpours kept growers out of the fields and put them behind in their field work, Waguespack said.

In 2015, Louisiana’s sugar cane farmers harvested more than 380,000 acres of cane which produced 1.4 million tons of raw sugar. The economic impact of the crop was $2 billion.

While the farmers are working the crop, the sugar mills are preparing for this year’s season.

Charlie Schudmak, owner of the Cora Texas Manufacturing plant in White Castle, said his mill has been gearing up to see their first sugar cane stalks by end of September. Schudmak said his mill did an expansion in the offseason to handle more production. “We handled about 337 million pounds in 2015,” he said.

Louisiana will be one of three states producing sugar cane after this year. Hawaii’s only sugar mill is closing leaving the United State production to Florida, Louisiana and Texas, Waguespack said.

LSU AgCenter agricultural economist Kurt Guidry said the acreage planted this year will range between 410,000 to 450,000 acres.

“Because we had a mild winter, more cane should be harvested,” said Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain. “The potential is there for an excellent year.”

Prices are up somewhat over last year because of shortages in other sugar producing areas because of weather related issues, Strain said.

“Therefore, our farmers should get a good return on their investment,” he said.

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