The 2018/2019 sugarcane crop came to a close this morning. According to Belize Sugar Industry/American Sugar Refineries, BSI/ASR this year’s crop has seen an improvement in the amount of cane supplied to the factory. Love News spoke with BSI’s Cane Farmers Relations Officer, Olivia Avilez said that the amount of cane supplied to the factory for this crop season exceeded expectations.
Olivia Avilez – BSI’s Cane Farmers Relations Officer: “We ended with 1.317615 million tons of cane, really that is record-breaking supply amount. Our last record was 1.314 million tons of cane. It is very important that the quality that comes in the cane is good because that is then translated to the amount of sugar that we can produce or extract out of that cane. Currently, the tons cane to tons sugar is 8.34 so we are still finalizing the sugar numbers because we just ended this morning but we are over 155,000 tons of sugar and again that is another record. Our last record was 144,000 tons of sugar and that was in 2017 so we are about 11,000 tons above that. That is critical because that translates into a positive price as well. We also managed to make better types of sugars, direct consumption sugars and more. These are food grade that sells for a higher price than the regular raw sugar so definitely those are very positive results from this year’s crop.”
Avilez explained that BSI/ASR produces five types of direct consumption sugars; adding that while they had feared effects from the drought experienced in the north, that was not the case.
Olivia Avilez – BSI’s Cane Farmers Relations Officer: “Drought, funny enough this year was a blessing because of the cane quality. The dryer it is the more the sugar cane concentrates sugar so in that scenario of quality it’s a positive. Where it is a negative is the following crop because we have been through a real drought period and the cane that is coming up didn’t get enough water. We are still rain fed, we have very little irrigated fields, there are some trails by both farmers and BSI to irrigate fields so the drought will have an impact on the following crops production, this year it had a positive impact on the quality.”
The majority of the sugar that BSI/ASR produces is sold to the EU market.
A Very Good Year For Cane Production
The sugar cane crop, or La Zafra opened in December - and it closed this morning.
We found out from ASR/BSI that it was a very good year:..
Olivia Avilez, Farmer's Relations Mgr., ASR/BSI
"So today at 5:55am we received the last cane truck for the season 2018-2019. we set out to mill 1.3 million tons on cane and we are very happy that we achieve that target. So we ended up with 1.317 million tons and that is a new record for us. Our last record on cane milling was in 2016 and it was 1.314. So we are 4,000 tons of cane above our record and we are also above 11,000 tons of sugar above our last record in 2017 for 144,000 tons of sugar. So also we are above record for direct consumption sugars."
"Is this indicative that you all are receiving a higher yield of sugar from the same volume of tons insofar as either the sugar has a higher sucrose value or that it has less mud, that type of thing?"
"Certainly, the cane that we are receiving from farmers which is 90% of the cane is sweeter, so yes. This year it was sweeter and a number of factors are important there. 1) the weather conditions were dry. With dryer weather conditions it concentrates the sugar better. So that was favourable, but also the farmers have done a tremendous job to ensure the quality of cane is there. Once we are delivered quality cane, the factory then has the priority to extract the maximum amount of sugar from that cane and that is what we called mill efficiency and that is our focus at BSI at the moment. It is about sugar. We need to take out the maximum amount of sugar of the same cane you brought in."
"With this record harvest and record yield, do we have record earnings?"
"In terms of price we know that we are definitely in the global market and we have to go by that. It is not business as usual in the sugar industry. We are not enjoying - this is post October 2017 that we were talking so much about. We are not in the same position we were back then. Sugar cane price we are finalizing the numbers on what cane was milled. There are several factors that play into the cane estimates. we are still at estimates point. The cane supply numbers that we have today is one element. The next element are the different types of sugar we were able to produce, the cane to tons sugar that we were able to attain and definitely the process of each type of sugar and the types of molasses as well. So all of that needs to play in the estimate. We are finalizing that. Unfortunately, I cannot give you numbers because we are still in that process, but the cane price estimate will come out shortly, maybe in the next week or two and that's when we are able to say exact numbers. In general, it is going to be positive, because of the direct consumption sugars investments, the cane supply and the good quality."
And while production of regular and direct consumption sugar increased - the CARICOM market continues to be a problem. You'll hear about the efforts to penetrate that market tomorrow.