Michigan Sugar begins this year’s sugarbeet harvest Friday, Oct. 22, and co-op officials said the crop could reach a record yield of 34 tons per acre, up from the previous record of 31.64 tons per acre set in 2015. The company’s grower-owners usually harvest about 4.6 million tons of sugarbeets, but the number this year could end up around 5.4 million tons. By the end of this year’s campaign, the company will have produced more than 1.3 billion pounds of sugar.
“This is always a very exciting time of year for us and there is great anticipation about the potential of this crop,” said Michigan Sugar Company Executive Vice President Jim Ruhlman. “Once again, our world-class growers have done a phenomenal job caring for their sugarbeets and, with a little help from Mother Nature, we will now reap the benefits.”
Michigan Sugar officials said the large crop, plus wet weather in October presents challenges, and has delayed the start of full harvest by about a week. Because of the large crop, Michigan Sugar’s Board of Directors voted last week to authorize possibly asking growers to leave up to 5% of their acres unharvested. They will make a final decision about that around Nov. 1.
“With such a large crop in the field, harvest will be long, tight, and somewhat unusual,” said Ruhlman. “And once the beets are harvested and piled, then we have to get them sliced. We expect this year’s slicing campaign will wrap up in mid-April, much later than most campaigns that typically wrap up in early to mid-March. The size of the crop directly impacts how many days it will take to slice all of the harvested sugarbeets,” said Ruhlman. “We don’t want to run into a situation where our harvested beets are decomposing beyond a usable state in the piles. That is what is driving our decision about possibly leaving sugarbeets in the field.”
Michigan Sugar also has major projects underway in Bay City, a $2 million expansion of its packaging operation to increase brown sugar production, and a $65 million project to build a new molasses desugarization facility.
The company is also hiring seasonal and year-round employees. Those interested in seasonal, harvest-related jobs can go to www.michiganbeetharvest.com. For careers with Michigan Sugar, visit www.michigansugar.com. Once there, click on the “Careers” tab at the top of the page and then click on “Current Openings.”
Michigan Sugar Company reminds motorists that the start of full harvest means an uptick in the number of sugarbeet trucks that will be on the road hauling the crop from farm fields to factories and piling stations throughout the area.