Business

Boise’s Amalgamated sets sugar-making record, credits genetic modification, breeding

Amalgamated Sugar has about 1,500 employees working at Idaho plants in Nampa, Twin Falls and Paul. Above, an employee oversees sugar beets unloading from a rail car on a flume in the Nampa plant.
Amalgamated Sugar has about 1,500 employees working at Idaho plants in Nampa, Twin Falls and Paul. Above, an employee oversees sugar beets unloading from a rail car on a flume in the Nampa plant. Idaho Statesman

Amalgamated Sugar Co., the company that buys all of the sugar beets grown in Idaho, has just finished processing the 2016 crop and says it will result in a record 2.34 billion pounds of sugar.

The growers harvested a record 7.2 million tons despite harvesting 2,000 fewer acres than in 2015, according to the University of Idaho. Idaho sugar beet revenues are estimated to increase by 2 percent from a year earlier.

Amalgamated President and CEO John McCreedy attributed the record production to seeds that are genetically modified to resist pesticides, improved breeding techniques that have increased beets’ sugar content, and improving factory efficiency.

The gains will help the company compete in an industry that has seen prices fall below the break-even point some years because of Mexico and other countries flooding the global market with cheap sugar, McCreedy said in a news release.

“Our growers compete very well under sustainable agriculture rules, but we still need to fix the trade relationship with Mexico,” he said.

Idaho farms struggled in 2016. Final revenues are not yet available, but estimated revenues were expected to decline in all major commodities except barley and sugar beets, said Garth Taylor, a University of Idaho agriculture economist. In general, domestic sugar companies operated above the break-even point, he said.

“Sugar beets were one of the only bright spots for the ag economy last year,” Taylor said. “But for U.S. sugar, it’s not about domestic supply and demand. It’s about holding back the tide of world imports that determines how good of a year it is for them.”

Amalgamated, based in Boise, is owned by Snake River Sugar Co., a cooperative of 750 grower-owners, including every Idaho sugar beet farmer.

  Comments