The 2008/2009 sugar cane crop comes to a close this Friday. It was a sugar cane crop that saw a 14-day strike on the delivery of sugar cane and an unrest just outside the factory gates that ended in the death of cane farmer Antanasio Gutierrez. While the strike and the unrest had little impact on this cane crop, it has resulted in one of the years with the lowest cane production closing thirty five days earlier than usual. BSI Factory Manager is John Gillett.

John Gillett; BSI Factory Manager
“This cane crop, Manuela, started off with the expectation that we would mill about 1.2 million tons of cane. As the crop progressed, the expectation got lower and lower and just about a month ago we expected that we would [have] milled just over a million tons of cane. Very disappointingly we will be milling just under 920,000 tons of cane for this crop. The reasons given is the weather conditions have been very dry, [which] prevented the cane from growing and the farmers referred to the frog hopper damage that was done last year, so all in all, that resulted in one of the lowest cane productions ever. Just two years ago we milled 1.2 million tons of cane, [and] last year we milled 980,000 tons of cane and this year is much less.”

Gillett say this year the quality of cane was much better than that of previous years.
John Gillett; BSI Factory Manager
“Fortunately, the cane quality this year was much improved, not because of any efforts being made by the quality enhancement programme as such, but because the weather has been extremely dry and the factory performed excellently and because the TCTS (tons cane per ton sugar) in the cane will be around 10 as compared to 12.54 tons of cane that it took last year to make a ton of sugar. And so this year is much improved.”

In October of this year, the full brunt of the EU 36% price cut will take effect. Gillett says that farmers must understand that it is a volume-based industry and they will need to produce more than a million tons of cane.

John Gillett; BSI Factory Manager
“The full 36% will come in place on the 1st of October this year and we will not start to feel the impact of the sugar produced for this crop until next year. Next year everyone can expect a much lower price per ton of cane because of the full 36%. As a matter of fact, the price per ton of sugar has been reduced from about 546 Euros per ton to 323 Euros per ton and that will be in effect on the 1st of October. So you can see the great reduction in revenue for the sugar industry. In order to compensate for that we will have to get up the volumes and in getting up the volumes we need to be producing much more than 1.2 million tons of cane.”

The expectation for the next cane crop which should commence at the end of this year is for 1.2 million tons of cane given good weather conditions and how the cane responds to the climatic conditions. By Friday, 93,000 tons of sugar would have been produced. The projection was for 115 tons reflecting a shortfall of 22,000 tons and $22 million.