Columbia River Sugar Finished?

Published online: Apr 08, 2002
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MOSES LAKE, WA—Just what the future of the Columbia River Sugar Company will be was still up in the air in early April.

Past the planting window for the company’s 20,000 acres of beets, and with financing not in place as of April 8, things looked dismal for the 35 growers.

One thing company officials would admit is that Pacific Northwest Sugar Company is no more. With no sugar produced last year because the company went on the power buy back program, there is simply nothing for PNSC to market.

In 1996 growers formed the Columbia River Sugar Company and pieced the old U and I factory back together. It was closed in the 1970s. They scavenged processing machinery from closed factories in Arizona and California.

But despite the great effort, the factory was beset with equipment and financial problems almost from day one.

The first year processing difficulties had to be handled and equipment realigned. This delayed processing into spring at which time some of the beet piles started to spoil.

Other winters saw the same thing with beet piles, unusually warm winter weather that was not conducive for good beet storage.

When the energy shortage hit the Pacific Northwest last year, the company agreed not to run, taking a payment in lieu of using power.

That brought the company to this year. It appears despite a tremendous effort on the part of Columbia River growers, financial packages could not be obtained.

As of this writing there was one more possibility being explored but things looked bleak, because growers were past the planting period.

They will grow other crops in the place of beets, including corn, beans, wheat, and alfalfa hay. Potatoes were not an option as they have their own market forces, a grower said.