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Michigan Sugar Announces Results from Annual Sugarbeet Slicing Campaign

Sugarbeet pile in Bay City. Photo: Michigan Sugar
Sugarbeet pile in Bay City. Photo: Michigan Sugar

Michigan Sugar Company this month wrapped up its 2019-2020 sugarbeet slicing campaign at its factories in Bay City, Caro, Croswell and Sebewaing.

This year’s campaign started in early September and wrapped up the week of April 5. Over the course of the campaign, Michigan Sugar sliced 4,108,522 tons of sugarbeets and produced more than 1 billion pounds of sugar. Additionally, the company produced more than 158,000 tons of molasses and 122,000 tons of dry pulp products, both of which are sold as livestock feed.

“This campaign was challenging in that we got a late start last fall due to Mother Nature throwing our grower-owners some very difficult conditions in which to work,” said Michigan Sugar Company Executive Vice President Jim Ruhlman. “Our growers did an amazing job getting our sugarbeets out of the ground and delivering them for processing.”

Ruhlman noted the late start resulted in the campaign running a few weeks later than normal. He said the Croswell factory finished slicing beets on Sunday, April 5; Bay City and Sebewaing finished Wednesday, April 8; and Caro finished Thursday, April 9.

“Our employees in the factory and in packaging and warehousing did an amazing job in the home stretch of this year’s campaign, which took place during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ruhlman said. “As a critical infrastructure industry, we had a responsibility to continue producing, packaging and shipping sugar into the marketplace. Our employees remained focused on the task at hand and, as they always do, really shined.”

Here is a breakdown of sugarbeet slicing production at each factory:

Factory            Tons Sliced      Sugar Produced           Molasses Produced      Dry Pulp Products

Bay City           1,600,400         405.66 million lbs.        57,541 tons                   65,377 tons

Caro                 715,057            191.65 million lbs.        29,882 tons                   38,273 tons

Croswell           790,154            201.26 million lbs.        34,219 tons                   8,052 tons

Sebewaing        1,002,911         228.36 million lbs.        36,367 tons                   10,922 tons

TOTALS        4,108,522         1.026 billion lbs.         158,009 tons       122,624 tons

After all the sugarbeets were sliced, the Bay City, Croswell and Sebewaing factories continued to produce sugar from juice and extract stored during the campaign. Croswell has completed its juice run and the Bay City and Sebewaing factories will continue producing sugar into May. From juice and extract, Michigan Sugar Company expects to produce an additional 80 million pounds of sugar.

Looking ahead, Michigan Sugar Company has several significant projects planned during inter-campaign – the time between the end of one sugarbeet slicing campaign and the beginning of another.

In Croswell, work already is underway on a $13 million capital investment project to improve beet receiving, washing and chip recovery, said Michigan Sugar Company Vice President of Operations Jason Lowry.

The project expands and optimizes the receiving and wash station of the factory by adding dry handling and replacing a large, tub-style beet washer with a process that sends beets over a high-pressure rollerspray table designed to use less water and energy, create fewer beet chips and produce a cleaner beet for slicing in the factory. It is part of the company’s multi-year, $65 million capital upgrade project at the Croswell factory aimed at increasing slicing capacity by 50 percent,” he said.

Elsewhere, projects in Caro include replacing two carbon dioxide gas blowers from the 1940s and upgrading the control system servers. In Sebewaing, a new vacuum system will be installed in the pellet mill for dust control and cleaning purposes, and a new control room is planned. In Bay City, the lime kiln will be sandblasted, cleaned, and repainted.

“Inter-campaign is always a busy time of the year in our factories as we prepare for another sugarbeet slicing campaign,” Lowry said.

Meanwhile, Michigan Sugar Company’s grower-owners returned to their fields in March and have been busy planting this year’s crop. To date, about 143,000 acres have been planted with total planting expected to exceed 162,000 acres.

Source: Michigan Sugar press release