Delbros says sugar industry should prepare for greater mechanization

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sugarcane farming

DELGADO BROTHERS (Delbros) Group, a logistics and agriculture company, said it backs the mechanization of the sugarcane industry in the face of the threat from more liberal sugar imports.

“Liberalization of the sugar industry will foster greater competition across industry players and will result in a leaner, more globally competitive sugar industry, which is ultimately beneficial to the Filipino consumer. In order to participate in this shift, farmers will require modernization and mechanization,” Delbros Group Managing Director Jose Paolo L. Delgado told BusinessWorld in an email interview on March 18.

“Specifically in the sugarcane industry, farmers are limited by traditional farm practices, labor costs, and lack of financing and infrastructure support,” Mr. Delgado added.

Mr. Delgado said farmers need the right technology in order to produce more in less time and at lower cost.

“With the right technology, farmers will be able to produce more with limited resources such as land, finances, and time. On the other hand, consumers will be assured of a reliable supply of sugar,” Mr. Delgado said.

“Sugar farming in the Philippines has changed little over almost 200 years, and we believe it is time to kickstart that change. Mechanization and modernization will increase yields and lower costs per hectare. It will provide better management of fields and result in higher quality produce.”

“Delbros believes that this will attract a younger generation of farmers that are comfortable with technology and who can change the current mindset to one of modernization, experimentation, and constant change,” according to Mr. Delgado.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and the Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization, Inc (PhilFoodex) have lobbied for the liberalization of the sugar industry with rice tariffication as a model, with sugar imported more freely and charged tariffs that will help develop the domestic sugarcane sector.

The organization said that if liberalization is not implemented, food and beverage products which use sugar will not be internationally cost-competitive.

The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has claimed that high sugar prices are caused by retailers and not by farmers.

Delbros said it sees many opportunities in the sector through its sugarcane farm solutions unit Cane Express (CaneX).

“There are a lot of opportunities for agriculture and food production. Farmers are looking for ways to circumvent challenges in the industry such as high labor costs and urbanization, which takes up what was once agricultural land, and this can be done through more advanced and efficient mechanization,” Mr. Delgado said.

CaneX recent;y launched its 48-feet triple axle Intermodal Trailers for use in sugarcane farming.

The trailer employs the company’s “drag and drop” model and can haul multiple loads in one day which leads to shorter overall delivery time of sugarcane, according to Mr. Delgado.

“With CaneX technology, Delbros can help farmers overcome these challenges and produce more with their limited resources,” Mr. Delgado said, noting that the company’s trucks can cut the usual three to four hours manual loading time to only 50 minutes.

“Through the Filipino-designed CaneX trucks, mechanized cane harvesters and loaders are expected to cut hauling, harvesting, and loading time, allowing farmers to focus on growing crops as best as they can, and for sugar mills to get the freshest sugarcane,” Mr. Delgado said.

“CaneX trucks allow for three to four trips with bigger loads for hauling, as opposed to the current process that is limited to two trips a day. Compared to traditional farming that takes 10 people three to four days to harvest one hectare of land, mechanized harvesters can cut 1.2 hectares per day. Additionally, manual loading usually takes up to three to four hours to fill a 10-wheeler truck, while mechanized loaders efficiently cut the process to just 50 minutes,” he added.

Mr. Delgado said that Delbros products are designed by Filipinos, and have a large presence in the Philippines.

“We know the industry and the market well, and we designed our machines based on how we can close the gap in the industry. As one of the country’s pioneers in agriculture and logistics, Delbros group has over 4,000 trucks, trailers, harvesters, loaders and containers deployed nationwide, mowing cargo, produce and fresh food,” Mr. Delgado said.

“We have operating facilities by the majority of ports and farm producing areas in the country. We also have a manufacturing presence in China and a team of technicians that work closely with our people on the ground to develop the right designs for our operations.” — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio