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Michigan Sugar Campaign Wrapping Up As Planting Begins

Michigan Sugar Company website
Michigan Sugar Company website

The Michigan Sugar Company hoped to have their campaign in the books by the middle of March, but that’s being pushed now to April.

According to Jim Ruhlman, Michigan Sugar’s executive vice president, bigger than expected yields and a slight decline in sugarbeet quality extended the campaign.

“It wasn’t that we couldn’t slice them, it was that they were less quality than we thought, and it took them longer to get through the factories,” he said.

Ruhlman said there’s roughly 300,000 tons of beets left to slice. They’re either in piles over of ventilation tubes or in hoop buildings.

“The hoop building probably has 65,000 tons in it that has ventilation in the building—those beets are in pretty nice shape,” he said. “Our ventilated piles that we have, the core of the pile still looks really good. We’re seeing some deterioration on the outsides of the piles [that] we’re probably not going to end up slicing, but all in all, we’re in pretty good shape.”

Weather conditions during harvest and winter also played a role in the speed of the campaign, but things are looking brighter this spring. As of this week, roughly 6,000 acres of sugarbeets have been planted.

“It’s not uncommon to see acres in the ground in March, but I would say it’s a bit uncommon to see 6,000 acres in the ground on March 24,” said Ruhlman. “Ground conditions have been very good on those acres—we’ve got a little moisture, but within a few more days, I think ground conditions might be good for some more planting.”

This year, the co-op plans on planting 163,000 acres vs the 154,000 acres that were planted in 2019. Ruhlman said growers are excited about the potential of sugarbeets again this year.

“When we get beets in the ground in early April, it makes things go a lot easier for the entire year,” he said. “When you’re planting beets in late May and the first of June, it seems like you’re behind from the beginning. With some dynamics going on in the market, we have a really nice potential for next year.”

Michigan Sugar is running at full capacity during the COVID-19 outbreak. Next Thursday, we’ll kick off our inaugural spring sugarbeet planting report. You can hear the report on your local MAT station.