Michigan Sugar Company begins its 2020-2021 sugarbeet harvest on Tuesday, Aug. 11, with beets being received at the company’s factories in Caro and Croswell, both of which are set to begin slicing on Wednesday, Aug. 12, the earliest start date for a campaign in recent history.
Slicing is set to begin at Michigan Sugar’s Bay City and Sebewaing factories on Monday, Aug. 17.
Michigan Sugar Company officials are predicting a seven-month campaign this year with processing wrapping up sometime in mid- to late-March.
“At this time, we are estimating a crop of 29 to 30 tons per acre and sugar content close to 18%,” said Jim Ruhlman, Executive Vice President for Michigan Sugar Company, adding about 30,000 of the company’s 162,000 acres of sugarbeets had to be replanted this year. “I can’t stop thinking about the resolve that our growers had this spring when they replanted acres and weathered the storms of rain and historic flooding. To have a crop like we do is just remarkable. We are very well positioned for very good yields and high sugar.”
Ruhlman said the early start date is the result of a large and healthy crop – estimated at 4.8 million tons – combined with a desire to mitigate risk.
“It’s a lot easier to slice beets in August than in March or April,” he said.
Michigan Sugar Company’s grower-owners plan to harvest 30% to 40% of this year’s crop before permanent piling begins in mid- to late-October. That means sugarbeets harvested between now and then will be delivered to the factories and processed within a couple days.
“We won’t begin piling beets until it is cool enough to do so,” explained Ruhlman.
By comparison, the 2019-2020 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.
Michigan Sugar Company undertook several significant projects during this past inter-campaign – the time between the end of one sugarbeet slicing campaign and the beginning of another.
In Croswell, work on a $13 million capital investment project to improve beet receiving, washing and chip recovery continues, 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,” Lowry said.
Croswell also saw the installation of a new pulp press. Projects at the Sebewaing factory included installation of a new vacuum system in the pellet mill for dust control and cleaning purposes, and the creation of a new control room. In Caro, two carbon dioxide gas blowers from the 1940s were replaced. In Bay City, the lime kiln was sandblasted, cleaned, and repainted.
As Michigan Sugar Company gets ready for another season of sugarbeet processing, it has begun hiring campaign employees. To learn more about available jobs and to apply, go to www.michigansugar.com and click on the “Careers” link.
On the Road Again
Finally, Michigan Sugar Company reminds motorists that the start of sugarbeet processing means sugarbeet trucks will once again be on the road hauling our sweet crop from farm fields to factories and piling stations throughout the area.