If the sugar cane crop in Iberville Parish continues at the rate it began two weeks ago, the management of Cora Texas Manufacturing Co. believes this year’s final output will rival last year’s record crop.
“It’s looking better than everyone thought,” said Scott Kessler, the sugar mill’s project manager. His job description entails, in part, handling quotas and dealing with the 40-plus farmers who bring cane to the mill.
Originally, the Kesslers – Buckley Kessler is the mill’s general manager and Scott’s father – and other locals in the industry thought the 2018 crop would be average.
“I think we’ll probably do a lot better than expected,” Scott said. “It’s looking better than everyone thought.”
Kessler estimated said Cora Tex will produce about 400 million pounds of raw sugar from the high tonnage it is now expected it will receive this season. Last year’s record crop was an output from the mill near White Castle was 430 million pounds.
Cane cutting and mill operations began during the last week of September and during the first week, the mill averaged over 39 tons of cane per acre.
“Last year was a record crop and we averaged 33 tons per acre,” the younger Kessler said, but continued by saying heavy rains in the week or so prior to the beginning of the harvest, the parish received four inches of rain over three days a factor that would artificially increase the weight of cane delivered to Cora Tex.
“Today (last Thursday) is only the second or third dry day that it hasn’t rained since we started so it’s been a pretty rough start,” he continued.
Kessler said so far the sugar content of the cane being harvested is up, proof of which is seen in the cane fields where the stalks have collapsed under the weight of the sugar they contain.
Steady rain falling on the parish during the spring and summer and continuing into September makes for great growing conditions for sugar cane.
“This year, the crop grew a lot in September,” Kessler said, but the weather prior to that caused many farmers to complain about the final result of their crop output. “Then in September we got some hot and rainy weather and the cane really shot up.”
Sugar prices are up this year, making a big crop profitable for everybody, Kessler said, “So everybody should make money this season.”
The ever-increasing improvement in growing conditions for cane means the plant will run longer than originally expected, Kessler said.
“When we first started out, we were thinking we’d be finished by Christmas but it’s looking like it’ll be New Year’s Day now,” he continued.
The mill typically grinds cane into raw sugar for about 90 days, but this year will be a little longer.
Cora Texas processes about 17,500 tons, possibly as much as 18,000 tons, daily for an output of three and a half to four million.