ROXAS Holdings, Inc. reported that it brought down its net loss to P939 million for its fiscal year 2021 from P2.36 billion in the previous year due to improved refinery operations and higher yields.

“This was achieved despite the problems besetting the local sugar industry and the prolonged La Niña phenomenon affecting most of crop year 2021, which have adversely impacted the yields of sugarcanes particularly in the Batangas area,” Roxas Holdings President and Chief Executive Officer Celso T. Dimarucut said in a virtual meeting on Wednesday.

“The dwindling cane supply and number of able-bodied farm workers that were already affecting the industry in the previous years, continue to persist as an issue for the industry,” he added.

Mr. Dimarucut said that the company’s sugar unit encountered difficulty in sourcing canes in the Batangas area, having lost market share over the years due to stiff competition.

To address this issue, he said the company re-trained its sights and focused on its capacity-building efforts for the sugar refinery.

“The Nasugbu refinery plant embarked on an effort to de-couple the mill and the refinery operations with the conversion of one of the refinery boilers to a multi-fuel fired boiler. This move would enable the refinery boiler to operate using alternative cheaper fuel sources and augment the dwindling supply of internally generated bagasse from the mill operations,” Mr. Dimarucut said.

He said the company’s goal is to increase production of refined sugar to five to seven million bags, once operations of the new equipment have stabilized. It was started in early 2021 and was completed in January 2022, in time for the peak of refinery operations for the next crop year.

Improved performance was driven by the “change in the strategic direction” of the ethanol unit, San Carlos Bioenergy, Inc. (SCBI).

SCBI has alternately been using sugar syrup from its milling operations or external molasses, as primary raw material, depending on supply and demand conditions.

“Our management, through the agri-business unit, has actively and successfully engaged the planters in San Carlos to source more canes, enabling SCBI to produce more fuel ethanol. This helped manage the cost of feedstock and fuel for SCBI, resulting in better feedstock margins and higher production volumes,” Mr. Dimarucut said.

Chairman Pedro O. Roxas said: “Roxas Holdings actively engages the Southern Luzon planters, in tandem with the Sugar Regulatory Administration and the University of the Philippines, and other stakeholders, to adopt programs to stifle the damage and the pernicious effects of some farming methods, such as the burning of canes, and produce more quality high-yielding variety of canes.”

Mr. Roxas said company was able to cushion the effects of last year’s challenges with its improved refinery operations, “due to combined factors of higher refining yields and lower fuel costs for the refinery, enabling us to reduce our losses.”

“Along with that, the ethanol business unit’s operations have seen marked improvements as it increased the use of sugar cane syrup while maintaining the flexibility to use molasses in the production of ethanol, as the opportunity arises. We have likewise started to reap the benefits of de-risking the business after completion of the South Negros asset sale and terming-out majority of its short-term loans in September 2021,” he added.

At the stock exchange, Roxas Holdings shares fell by P0.09 or 6.92% to P1.21 apiece. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson