A sweet deal for the Red River Valley

Minnesota State Roundup

Published October 1, 1991  | October 1991 issue

American Crystal Sugar Co. of East Grand Forks is expanding its processing plant to incorporate new techniques that allow it to extract sugar from a byproduct.

Known as desugarization, the new process will allow American Crystal to extract 85 percent of the sugar from molasses, which is a byproduct of sugar production and is worth less than refined sugar.

Mark Dillon, spokesman for American Crystal Sugar in Moorhead, says that desugarization is "a good deal for a grower because it takes more sugar out of the beet." More sugar per beet translates into more money per acre, he says.

If it were sold at current prices, the additional sugar extracted in the new process would have a market value of $28 million, or 8 percent of annual sales for Crystal Sugar, a cooperative owned by 2,100 beet growers with five plants in Minnesota and North Dakota and about 2,000 employees. Construction of the $31 million facility is under way, with plant operations expected to begin in the fall of 1992.

Because of the nature of high-tech refining, the company expects to create only a few new jobs, according to Dillon, but anticipates more year-round employment opportunities. Molasses can be stored and desugarized off-season.

Nettie Pignatello