Sugar cane season is underway throughout the Teche area, and things seem to be going as well as possible so far for this year despite August’s floods, but uncertainty looms for future crops.
"Harvest season is good. It’s been dry,” said Hugh Andre, who owns HMC Farms with his brothers, Mike and Chris, both of New Iberia.
"Planting was tough. That is part of mother nature,” Mike Andre said. "It’s not what you need to do, it’s what Mother Nature will let you do. But we did get a dry spell at the end.”
"Tonnage is down. Normal is 27 to 28 tons per acre when we start harvest. Now it’s 23 to 24 tons,” Hugh Andre said. "The prices are up a little bit compared to the last three years. That’s a plus. We’re going to need it.”
"It was a really difficult year to plant sugar cane,” said Jim Simon of New Iberia, director of the American Sugar Cane League. "The tonnage is a little less, but the sugar content is good. All in all, it’s been doing OK.”
Some of this year’s crop was damaged in the heavy rains in mid-August.
"Cane planted before the rain is what a lot of people are having trouble with,” Hugh Andre said. "Thirty-something inches of rain. It packed the ground like cement. Everything before that time is not good, like 50 percent not good compared to what it normally is.”
Hugh Andre has more concern about coming years than the current one.
"It dried up. Everybody went plant. But now we haven’t had any rain in a month,” Hugh Andre said. "Our crop next year is going to be off a good bit. The plant cane crop is going to be mediocre next year. We’ll definitely have some loss for next year’s crop with the planting that we had this year.”
"It’s going OK. The weather to start harvest was helpful,” said Cajun Sugar Co. CFO Sean Kidder in New Iberia. "The weather to start harvest was helpful. The flood affected the planting and actually prevented some farmers from starting the harvest as early as they would.”
"It’s going fairly well for us. We had a slow start, but it’s going pretty good,” Cajun Sugar Co. mill supervisor Paul Judice said.
Kidder said Cajun Sugar Co. handles about 40 farmers, and can store some 196 million pounds of sugar.
"The season is going well,” Kidder said. "The sugar is good. The sugar content is good.”
Story by Laura Gary of the Daily Iberian