Florida’s sugarcane season began Monday as U.S. Sugar Corp. launched its 82nd annual harvest. The company’s harvesting and processing operations run 24 hours a day, seven days a week through early April.

U.S. Sugar spokeswoman Judy Sanchez said the company, with more than half of its 180,000 acres of sugar cane in Palm Beach County, expects to produce 7.1 million tons of sugarcane resulting in 770,000 tons of refined sugar.

“Weather permitting, we expect to harvest and process a good sugarcane crop, very similar in size to last year’s,” Sanchez said.

The company expects to harvest about 6.56 million tons of sugarcane for processing at its Clewiston Sugar Factory. As a result of its acquisition of DUDA’s sugarcane operations in Belle Glade last year, U.S. Sugar will continue to deliver cane to the state’s two other sugar producers, the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida and Florida Crystal Corp.’s mills in western Palm Beach County.

The Cooperative and Florida Crystals expect to start their harvests later this month.

Florida is the nation’s largest producer of sugarcane, and during the 2000s has averaged 1.8 million tons of sugar per year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

Florida’s sugar industry has a $3.1 billion economic impact on the state, Sanchez said.

U.S. Sugar also plans to import about 90,000 tons of foreign raw sugar from Mexico and other countries to be refined and marketed.

In 2011-12, U.S. Sugar produced 773,000 tons of raw sugar, 41 million gallons of molasses and 200,000 megawatt hours of electricity. Leftover sugarcane fiber known as bagasse is burned to produce electricity.

“Many South Floridians do not realize that our sugarcane produces green renewable energy that replaces 70 million gallons of fuel oil, or 1.63 million barrels of fossil fuels each year,” Sanchez said.

source: palmbeachpost

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