By JEAN L. KAESS
ST. MARY PARISH — Nearly 4,000 more acres of sugar cane are expected to be harvested in St. Mary Parish during the 2012 season compared to the 2011 season.
Louisiana State University County Agent Jimmy Flanagan said farmers reported 47,461 acres expected to be harvested.
In 2011, 43,592 acres were harvested in the parish, Flanagan said.
Across the state, farmers harvested 407,641 acres of sugar cane in 2011, according to the LSU agriculture summary. No statewide predictions for the 2012 harvest are available.
Hurricane Isaac’s impact here was minimal. Less than 5 percent of crops were lost across the parish because of the storm, with the majority of those in the Centerville and Patterson areas.
The plants that were impacted primarily were laid down, but not twisted. Within the last three weeks they have stood back up, Flanagan said.
“Overall, we’re in pretty good shape,” he said.
Both sugar mills in St. Mary — Sterling Sugars in Franklin and St. Mary Sugar Co-Op in Sorrell — are producing good quality sugar at 200 pounds of sugar per ton of sugar cane ground, Flanagan said. What they can produce mostly depends on the climate.
“The key is weather. If it’s good during harvest, it’s better for the yield, and that’s better for sugar recovery,” Flanagan said, explaining that when the weather is rainy harvesters pick up more mud and trash leaving more to be sorted out at the mill.
Prices range about 30 cents per pound for this year’s crop.
Mills sell sugar throughout the year and during the 2011 growing season they received pretty strong prices.
The 2012 crop is estimated to bring prices for raw sugar that are a little below last year although final prices for the current crop won’t be known until October 2013, because of the future market.