Large yield expected from sugar beet harvest

15 Sep 2016

Lethbridge Herald

J.W. Schnarr

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The annual sugar beet harvest is about to get underway, and with it a reminder for local residents to keep an eye out for the hauling trucks that will soon be hitting southern Alberta roads.

More than 200 local farmers will defoliate and harvest about 28,000 acres of beets over the next eight weeks, working around the clock. Piling grounds where the beets are stored are located in Taber, Picture Butte, Vauxhall, Tempest, Enchant, Coaldale and Burdett.

There is a limited amount of time to get beets out of the ground and to the processing plant, meaning trucks will be hauling beets at all hours of the day.

“There are going to be trucks on the road at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., and 4 in the afternoon,” said Melody Garner-Skiba, executive director of the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers.

“So everyone is asked to be mindful of that. Especially in areas where they are piling locations. There are always lineups of the beet trucks getting ready to unload. Everybody is doing their best to get sugar beet harvest off, and we just ask people to be cautious around the trucks.”

This year’s sugar beet harvest is split into two parts. Garner-Skiba said this year the harvest is starting early, with a mini harvest to run from Thursday to Oct. 3. “Our main processor needs some sugar sooner rather than later,” she said. “So we are going to be delivering around 6,000 acres early on in the harvest.”

The main harvest will begin Oct. 3, and run to about the end of October. Beet processing is set to ramp up on Sept. 20 in Taber at the Roger’s Sugar factory.

“They will probably be slicing beats until the end of January,” said Garner-Skiba.

She said the crop appears to a good one this year, in spite of the hail and chaotic weather over the summer. Sugar beet yields are expected to be between 26 to 28 tonnes per acre and over 100 million kilograms of sugar is expected to be extracted from this year’s crop.

Alberta and Ontario are the only remaining provinces still growing sugar beets, and Ontario ships their harvest to Michigan for processing as U.S. sugar.

“Southern Albertans should be extremely proud of the fact that we are home to the only truly Canadian sugar that exists,” Garner-Skiba said. “Not only are sugar beets grown here, but they are refined here.”

Further, she noted the history of southern Alberta agriculture and sugar beets are intertwined, as new Canadians coming to the area were once hired to work the fields. Later, some became landowners themselves.

“This is a long history in southern Alberta that we should all be proud of,” said Garner-Skiba.

She asked local residents to consider supporting local sugar production as the fall baking season begins.

“I would like people to ask themselves if they are buying Alberta sugar,” she said. “Are you buying sugar that is manufactured in Brazil or Mexico? Buy local. Look for that Roger’s sugar, because it is our sugar, beet sugar. It is truly made-in-Alberta sugar.”

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