SUGAR production during the 2023-2024 crop year amounted to 1.86 million metric tons (MT), millers said, exceeding estimates issued by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).

In a statement, the Philippine Sugar Millers Association (PSMA) said raw sugar production was also 3.57% higher than the 1.79 million MT reported the previous crop year.

PSMA President Terence S. Uygongco said higher production during the crop year will help reduce uncertainty in the supply of sugar.

“The government’s decision to move the harvest cycle to Sept. 1 from last year’s August to improve yields has proven its worth, and we will continue to push for the original Oct. 1 start of milling, to further improve our cane quality,” SRA Administrator Pablo Luis S. Azcona said in a Viber message.

The regulator had projected raw sugar production of 1.85 million MT, with a possible 10-15% decline depending on the severity of El Niño.

PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration), the government weather service, said that El Niño is currently at a weakening state, though its effects are projected to last until August.

“We were also lucky that El Niño only hit the tail end of the harvest, and the effect was negated by the increase in planted area,” Mr. Azcona added.

He said that the SRA recorded a 3,000 hectare increase in planted area amid a rise in farmgate prices for sugarcane, encouraging more farmers to plant crops.

The government had earlier allocated P5 billion to directly purchase domestic sugar to arrest the drop in farmgate prices.

However, El Niño has affected the sugarcane planted for the next harvest season.

“This El Niño hit from November 2023 to present has greatly damaged the planted cane for the October 2024 harvest, and so far in Batangas, south Negros, and Mindanao, the October 2024 harvestable cane is suffering,” he said.

“We are hoping for the rains to come soon, so that the 2024 to 2025 season will be as good as well,” Mr. Azcona added.

Meanwhile, the PSMA said that sugar imports should be conducted in times of production deficits.

“All we ask is that the volume to be imported is the deficiency in production including a contingency stock, with the arrival of imports timed not to coincide with sugar milling,” Mr. Uygongco said.

Administrative Order No. 20 (AO 20) instructed the Departments of Agriculture, Finance, and Trade and Industry to simplify the procedures for agricultural imports, while removing non-tariff barriers.

Under AO 20, the SRA was instructed to streamline and standardize sugar import rules. It was also ordered to admit more traders into the sugar import program.

“As sugar producers, we look forward to the stakeholders’ consultations that have to be undertaken by SRA to accomplish this directive,” he added. — Adrian H. Halili