Dismal weather destroys 45% of sugar beet harvest in southern Alberta

Alberta’s sugar beet harvest has been called off, making this the worst harvest in decades. 

Province is home to Canada's only beet sugar processing plant and 190 producers

Just 55 per cent of this year's sugar beet crop will be harvested. The rest has been written off due to prolonged cold weather in southern Alberta. (The Associated Press)

Alberta's sugar beet harvest has been called off, leaving 45 per cent of the crop in the ground and making this the worst harvest in decades.

Severe snow and frost severely damaged the beet crop beyond saving, according to an analysis by the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers and Rogers Sugar corporation.

The decision was announced late Thursday afternoon.

Arnie Bergen-Henengouwen, president of the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers, says this is the worst harvest he's seen in his 37 years of beet farming near Picture Butte, Alta., located approximately 200 kilometres southeast of Calgary. 

"Certainly the worst harvest," he told the Calgary Eyeopener. "We did have a good crop on the way but Mother Nature was not very friendly to us."

Bergen-Henengouwen said a severe snowstorm at the end of September, followed by three cold snaps in October, destroyed the crop.

He said the last time he had to leave beets in the ground was in 2009, but only 20 per cent was abandoned. 

There are 190 beet producers in southern Alberta, which is home to the only sugar beet processing plant in Canada, Bergen-Henengouwen said.

Typically, that plant operates well into late January or February, but operations will be cut short this year due to the reduced harvest.

"They will be done by Christmas time, which is very unusual," Bergen-Henengouwen said.

Rogers Sugar says it expects to produce between 60,000 and 70,000 metric tonnes of refined sugar from this harvest. It will make up for the loss with cane sugar from its Vancouver and Montreal refineries, which both have excess capacity.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.


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