Southern Alberta Beet Growers Lose Nearly Half of Crop

Published online: Nov 11, 2019 News
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Source: Global News

Canadian sugar company Rogers has announced that it has been forced to terminate the 2019 sugarbeet harvest in southern Alberta due to the impact of severe fall weather in the area.

In a statement Thursday, Rogers said: “This decision was made following an exhaustive analysis by the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers and the Corporation, which jointly determined that severe snow and frost damage has resulted in an inability to store or process the unharvested, damaged sugar beet crop.”

Arnie Bergen-Henengouwen, president of the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers Association, said roughly 45 percent of the 2019 crop has been left in the ground by farmers.

In his years of farming in the area, Bergen-Henengouwen said he hasn’t seen anything like this.

“This is unprecedented.. three very cold weather events in October,” he said. “We do often have one cold weather event and the crop comes through okay.”

Retired agronomy research scientist Ross McKenzie said he hasn’t seen many situations like this 30 years.

“[It is] very, very unusual,” said McKenzie. “The last time sugarbeets could not be harvested was about 2009, and you have to go back to about 1984 the next time.”

Southern Alberta is home to 190 sugarbeet producers, who are used to beet crops withstanding frigid temperatures.

“Sugar beets, they can tolerate a certain amount of frost when you have good, vegetative leafy growth right at the soil’s surface to really provide an insulating effect from those cold temperatures,” said McKenzie.

Farmers will now have to wait and see if the weather permits them to work down fields before next season.

Rogers will continue to review options to service customers in the area, including receiving cane sugar supply from Vancouver and Montreal refineries, both of which have excess capacity.

Southern Alberta is home to the only Canadian sugarbeet processing facility, in Taber, Alberta.