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Wettest wet season on record slices Palm Beach County’s sugar cane harvest

This season’s sugar production dropped significantly due to record rainfall last summer that flooded farms and hampered the sugar cane crop’s important summer growth cycle, two Palm Beach County sugar companies said Tuesday.

The Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, Belle Glade, and Florida Crystals Corp., West Palm Beach both saw production drop 9 percent from a year ago. Summer rains were 46 percent above average.

Of Palm Beach County’s 461,000 acres devoted to agriculture, 400,000 acres consists of sugar cane fields in western Palm Beach County, according to the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office.

The cooperative’s 45 grower-members produced more than 2.8 million tons of sugar cane which yielded 332,154 tons of raw sugar and 16 million gallons of blackstrap molasses during the 2013-14 harvest that ended March 6, spokeswoman Barbara Miedema said.

“Our crop was impacted by the wettest wet season on record,” Miedema said Tuesday.

During the summer, known as cane’s “grand growth period,” the tall grass plant can grow an inch a day.

Cooperative President Tony Contreras said the losses were offset by the excellent performance of its sugar mill and agricultural operations.

“Glades Sugar House set new records for energy efficiency and for the quality of the raw sugar produced. We applaud the teamwork of our growers and our workforce who achieved these results despite the obstacles delivered by Mother Nature and in the marketplace,” Contreras said.

In the 2012-13 season, the Cooperative produced more than 3 million tons of cane, resulting in 363,514 tons of raw sugar and 16.7 million gallons of molasses.

Florida Crystals’ harvest began Oct. 16 and was completed after rain delays on March 15. At its two sugar mills in western Palm Beach County, Florida Crystals produced 5,303,925 tons of sugarcane; 622,615 tons of raw sugar and 29 million gallons of blackstrap molasses.

In the 2012-13 season, Florida Crystals produced 688,729 tons of raw sugar.

Gaston Cantens, Florida Crystals spokesman, said: “As has been widely reported, record rainfall wreaked havoc across the entire region of South Florida last year and the effects on agriculture were no different. The rain flooded our farms and caused delays, but our team worked diligently to manage risks and mitigate reductions”

The Cooperative and Florida Crystals jointly own ASR Group, the world’s largest cane sugar refining and marketing company with a global production capacity of more than 6 million tons of refined sugar annually.

Its brands include Domino, C&H, Redpath, Tate&Lyle, Sidul, Sores and Notadolce.

U.S. Sugar Corp., Clewiston expects to complete its harvest in April.

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