KANSAS CITY — Two major sugar refineries in the New Orleans area still were without power and were not operating Aug. 31 after Hurricane Ida moved through the region on Aug. 29 as a category 4 storm.
Sources at the ASR Group (Domino) Chalmette refinery at Arabi, La., and at the Louisiana Sugar Refining, LLC, (LSR) refinery at Gramercy, La., said storm assessment still was underway. Both were working to get backup power from generators for parts of the facilities, including warehouses, but there was no word on when regular power from the local energy company would be restored so refining operations could be resumed. Most of the region remains without power, both residential and commercial.
ASR Group still was confirming that all employees were accounted for and safe. LSR said all its employees were safe. The ASR facility was taken down on Friday and the LSR plant on Saturday as a precaution ahead of the fast-moving storm. Both refineries are major producers of refined cane sugar sourcing most of their raw sugar supply from Louisiana and Texas, with the ASR plant also utilizing some imported raw sugar. Combined, they produce more than 15% of the total US sugar supply (including carryover, domestic beet and cane sugar and imports). The ASR plant can produce 7 million lbs of sugar per day (about 1.3 million tons per year). The LSR plant can produce about 5.5 million lbs of refined sugar daily (about 1 million tons per year) and announced an expansion earlier in the year.
“As we continue to assess, clean up and move toward resuming operations at the Chalmette refinery, we are aware some orders may be impacted,” ASR said in an email to customers. “We will be utilizing available inventory and capacity within our network to supply customers to the best of our ability during this difficult time. Changes to shipping locations may affect requested delivery dates.”
There was no official word on the impact to the Louisiana sugarcane crop, harvest of which typically begins later in September. The US Department of Agriculture rated the crop 70% good to excellent as of Aug. 29, up from 65% a week earlier. The crop was assessed before Hurricane Ida hit, and the rating would be expected to be sharply lower next week. New crop sugarcane was 35% planted compared with 25% a week earlier and 57% at the same time last year. A year ago the crop was rated 81% good to excellent as of Aug. 23 only to tumble to 60% as of Aug. 30 after Hurricane Laura hit in the same general area as Ida but as a less severe storm. The crop recovered to 75% good to excellent by the end of September.
One press report indicated sugarcane may be the most severely affected of the agricultural crops in the region because of lodging so close to harvest and possible saltwater effects.
Louisiana was forecast by the USDA to account for 46% of US sugarcane and cane sugar production and 20% of total domestic sugar production in the 2021-22 marketing year.