Published: Dec 17, 2010 9:03 PM EST
Updated: Dec 17, 2010 6:03 PM EST

CLEWISTON, Fla - U.S. Sugar Corporation said Friday that five nights of below freezing temperatures over the last ten days had severely damaged its 2010 sugarcane crop; a crop that already had been impacted early in its growth by January’s record-smashing 12 days of deep freeze.

“These multiple hard freezes impacted 100 percent of our sugarcane crop,” said Judy Sanchez, director of corporate communications, “both the current mature 2010-11 crop and the newly planted 2011-12 crop which was burnt back to the ground.” 

“The impacts could be devastating, not only to U.S. Sugar but also to the smaller, independent cane farmers in the area,” Sanchez said.  “With thousands of acres still left to be planted for next year, it will become extremely difficult to find enough acceptable seed cane, and that will exacerbate the impact on next year’s crop.”

 “The mercury dropped much too low for far too long,” Sanchez said. “It fell significantly below the 28 degrees for four hours damage threshold for both sugarcane and citrus.” 

Sanchez said that approximately 60 percent of the current crop remained to be harvested.  Much of U.S. Sugar’s 150,000 acres of sugarcane fields experienced temperatures well below freezing for up to 12 hours.  Lows of 21-23 degrees were fairly widespread throughout the Company’s land in Glades, Hendry and Palm Beach counties.

“Much of the mature cane currently being harvested is frozen, and the clock is ticking to get it harvested and processed before it spoils,” Sanchez said.

U.S. Sugar will utilize a proprietary, automated harvest scheduling program to enable the Company to identify and harvest the most damaged sugarcane.  During the January 2010 freeze events, this program helped reduce the sucrose and tonnage losses due to the freeze.

“Our Southern Gardens Citrus also was impacted.  The freezing conditions left ice in some of the fruit, mostly Early-Mid varieties, which will be harvested and processed as quickly as possible.  Further impacts are still being evaluated,” Sanchez said.

U.S. Sugar Corporation farms nearly 150,000 acres of sugarcane land and 21,000 acres of active citrus groves.