A SUGAR Regulatory Administration (SRA) board member said production could rise if the sugar milling season is moved back to its “proper” start date of October.

Speaking at the Laging Handa briefing on Tuesday, SRA Board Member and Planter’s Representative Pablo Luis S. Azcona said the decision of many sugar mills to start operating in August has held back production.

“If we delay it to October that is an instant 5-10% increase in production for everybody. So now, the question is ‘how do we help the farmers get to October?’ That’s currently our plan,” Mr. Azcona said.

He said the early availability of milling services has led some farmers to harvest cane at 9-10 months from planting, which reduces sugar yields.

The SRA also plans to work with the Department of Agrarian Reform develop its block farming program, which consolidates small farms owned by land reform beneficiaries to larger farms of 30-50 hectares.

The consolidated farms will be easier to mechanize than small farms of 1-2 hectares, according to Mr. Azcona.

Following an order from President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to maintain a two-month buffer stock of sugar, the SRA is currently reviewing the data and yield projections for the current milling season ending in June.

Price monitoring by the Department of Agriculture puts the price of refined sugar at between P87 and P110 per kilogram; washed sugar, P83-P95; and brown sugar, P80-P95.

Once imports of refined sugar arrive, they will be classified as “reserve stock.” The SRA will monitor inventory of domestically-produced sugar to determine when to release imports onto the market.

“We might have to release some of it at the start to stabilize prices as they keep on increasing. Everybody is speculating that our supply will run out in the end. We’re currently okay because we’re milling, so speculation is driving the prices up,” he added. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera