The modern era of the Louisiana sugarcane industry began when the sugarcane growers and millers organized the American Sugar Cane League in 1922. At that time, the dreaded mosaic disease had nearly wiped out the crop. To save the industry, the sugar producers began to look for the best varieties and the best scientific minds to set the industry back on a sustainable course. Today, because of those prescient agricultural leaders, sugarcane remains a strong market force in the state because it has always recruited the best scientific and business talent from within and without to keep the industry going forward.
Sandor Garcia is one such recruit. Garcia, 29, came to America because his parents wanted their son to finish his education in the United States. Garcia is a market analyst for the M.A. Patout group, which owns and operates three sugar mills: Enterprise Factory in Patoutville, Raceland Raw Sugar Corporation in Raceland and Sterling Sugars in Franklin.
“I was born in San Salvador, El Salvador,” Garcia said. “My parents put me on an English learning course early on and sent me to high school in Alabama where I lived with an American family we connected with through my high school in El Salvador.”
After high school, Garcia went to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and graduated in business. From there, he earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of the Cumberlands in 2017. As he studied, he also interned at Covenant Transport, a firm that had more than 4,500 trucks on the road across the U.S.
“I learned risk management, something that helped me learn risk management of fuel derivatives, insurance, some budgeting and forecasting when I got to M.A. Patout,” Garcia said.
He also had a leg up when he got to M.A. Patout because he was under the tutelage of some of the best minds in the sugar business.
“Mr. Tommy Duhe was in the process of retiring,” Garcia explained. “He worked closely with me for six months and taught me the back end of the business and the day-to-day affairs.”
Under the leadership of Randy Romero, M.A. Patout’s CEO, Garcia was given free rein to get involved in all aspects of the sugar industry. Romero personally took the time to guide him and help him learn the intricacies of the business and the industry.
“Mr. Randy and everyone that is part of this company has been very good to me,” Garcia said. “I feel blessed to be a part of the team here.”
Another knowledgable individual who took Garcia under is Dan Duplantis Sr.
“Mr. Dan and I talk multiple times daily,” Garcia said. “He has been around the sugar industry for quite some time, building relationships with people all over the world. I’ve learned this is extremely valuable.”
Garcia said, Billy Patout, a legend in the Louisiana sugarcane world, would drop by his office and drink coffee with him.
“I picked up a lot about everything he saw and what he went through,” Garcia said. “That was very valuable. I am lucky to have met him, he was one of those people that challenge you to see things differently.”
Garcia said that although his native country is a sugarcane producer, the big agricultural commodity in El Salvador is coffee beans.
“My grandfather owned a coffee farm,” he said. “But that was the limit of my connection to agriculture.”
In sugar speak, Garcia said he’s in his seventh crop. He was young when he came into the business and he’s still maturing into his role. And he’s been successful.
“I think recognizing what the company’s mission is, that helped me to understand how to get a good return for our growers, employees and the owners,” he said. “If the growers do well, we do well. From there you plan your business through.”
Garcia is excited to be part of the Louisiana sugarcane world. The future is wide open for a bilingual young man. He’s going places and the sugar industry is glad to have him.