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Wednesday, 30 November 2016 06:41

Farmers optimistic about sugar beet industry

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Although it's never enough, the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers (ASBG) organization as a whole was pleased with the final totals regarding the 2016 harvest, all things considered.

Melody Garner-Skiba, ASBG executive director, says the numbers were pretty good as reported from the different offices at the pilers.
She says (with all numbers rounded up) at Vauxhall there was 250,000 tonnes of beets; Burdett 168,000; Taber East/West 163,000; Enchant 99,800; Picture Butte 47,700; Tempest 46,000 and Coaldale 45,000 tonnes.
In total, according to ASBG, 820,000 plus tonnes of beets were delivered to the factory for processing.
Those beets contained enough sugar in them to produce 138,869 tonnes of sugar or 138,869,616 kg of sugar. The average yield for the crop was 28.67 tonnes per acre up from the last year 26.77 tonnes per acre.
Beets are now in storage waiting to be hauled from the piling grounds to be processed by the plant.
Farmers are wrapping up field preparations for next year’s crop and feeling optimistic about the future of the sugar beet industry in southern Alberta.
“We are very pleased with sugar beet harvest this year,” says Arnie Bergen-Henengouwen, president of ASBG, in a statement. “The yields and sugar content were great even with the crazy weather we had around Thanksgiving which had many farmers and our processor concerned. Our organization worked closely with the factory during that time to make sure we could get the crop delivered once the conditions permitted. We would like to thank everyone out in the fields, at the piling grounds, and in the factory for helping make the 2016 harvest a success.”
While the numbers are good from the harvest, there is always the question of how many acres of sugar beets Lantic Inc. (Lantic and Rogers Sugar were streamlined into one operation in 2008) wants planted. A lot depends on capacity at the Taber sugar beet processing plant and the other depends on the sugar market.
With Lantic having sugar cane refineries in Montreal and Vancouver as well as a plant which produces a variety of sugar products in Ontario, the sugar beet market is always an interesting proposition.
Sugar beets are also grown in Ontario, but they send them to a processor in Michigan.
Alberta Sugar Beet Growers officials would like to see Lantic increase its capacity size by making some renovations to the factory, but that is a company decision. World sugar prices are on the rise which is good news.
“Typically, we find out in early February,” Garner-Skiba explains, adding she is expecting the 28,000 acres the farmers were contracted to do in 2016. “If sugar prices are up, we would hope they would want more. That would be our hope.”
One thing Garner-Skiba is hoping to do this winter is to educate the public about sugar, sugar beets and the growing and harvesting of them. She is open to attending schools or doing presentations for any groups wanting one. She says the education and public relations aspect was something the ASBG board really wanted to emphasis in the foreseeable future. The other educational component this year is she wants consumers to be aware when they are buying Rogers Sugar in the store, there is a black number 22 printed on the bag. That 22 indicates the bag was processed and packaged in Taber. With the other plants using cane plants to produce their sugar, Alberta sugar beet growers are looking for support for their products.
She said 11.1 per cent of the sugar produced in Canada is in Taber, and the sugar beet growers want to see that increase.
Garner-Skiba added the beet banquets are coming up although the one for the Vauxhall-area producers already took place at the Lethbridge Lodge and the one for Burdett/Bow Island farmers was at the Burdett Hall Dec. 1. Enchant’s is at the Enchant Community Hall Dec. 15; Coaldale’s is Jan. 25 at Boxburn Café and Taber’s is taking place Jan. 27.
She was uncertain about when the Picture Butte/Tempest banquet would take place.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor