Slovak sugar beet harvest worst in two decades

At the beginning of 1998, sugar producers in Slovakia expected to produce 180 to 190 thousand tonnes of sugar, which would have covered domestic consumption and left a 5% reserve. However, according to latest estimates, this year's sugar output will be between 145 and 155 thousand tonnes.

"What happened with the weather this year was awesome. I have worked in the industry since 1970, and the last time we had a similar harvest was in 1974-75," said Róbert Straka, the executive director of the Slovak Association of Sugar Producers. Beet farmers estimate their losses, which were caused by bad weather, at 600 million Sk ($16.2 million).

A rainfall that was four times the average amount during the past autumn reduced the sugar content in sugar beets and made harvesting very difficult. All sugar mills were forced to slow or interrupt processing because of the delayed beet harvest. Bad weather increased harvesting costs as well as processing costs at sugar mills.

By mid-December, sugar mills had processed over one million tonnes of sugar beet and produced 116 thousand tonnes of sugar. Almost five thousand hectares of sugar beet fields remain to be harvested.

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