LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — Owners of a sugar cane syrup mill in south Louisiana are preparing to buy a recently closed sugar mill in St. James.
Andino Energy, a Colombian company that shares ownership of a mill in Lacassine with a co-op of Lake Charles sugar cane farmers, made the highest offer for St. James Sugar Mill after its co-op decided to close earlier this year.
Andino officials aren't saying much about their plans for the mill — whether it might be dismantled for spare parts, used to make syrup for a planned ethanol plant in Lacassine or face some other use.
Randal Johnson, spokesman for Andino Energy, declined to comment Tuesday about the company's plans.
If purchased, St. James will be the latest addition to Andino Energy's portfolio of Louisiana agribusiness, anchored by the Lacassine syrup mill where an ethanol mill will be built this January.
Andino bought the closed Iberia Sugars Mill last year and has made offers for another sugar mill in Jeanerette in the past.
Approval for the sale on St. James' end may come in the next few weeks, Johnson said. The South Louisiana Sugars Cooperative, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a bank in Colorado specializing in agribusiness all have to approve the purchase.
The Lacassine mill initially was state-built, financed in 2003 with Department of Agriculture and Forestry funds that came from state gambling revenue.
It opened in fall 2006, a year late because of Hurricane Rita. It was sold last fall to the Lake Charles Cane Cooperative farmers group. They brought on a partner in Andino Energy, with Andino holding 80 percent ownership and the co-op 20 percent.
The syrup mill was promoted by Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom specifically for an ethanol mill to be built beside it, turning the syrup or molasses into biofuel.