THE PHILIPPINES needs to produce about 2.4 to 2.5 million metric tons (MT) of sugar to be considered self-sufficient, a Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) official said.
“Maybe we need to produce about 2.4 to 2.5 million metric tons to be called self-sufficient. So, our (objective) is really how to make the farmers improve their production,” SRA Acting Administrator and Chief Executive Officer Pablo Luis S. Azcona said at a Laging Handa briefing on Wednesday.
“Our farm size is smaller, only 1-2 hectares, compared to other countries. That’s why we need to consolidate the small farmers into cooperatives to (deliver) all the assistance they need,” he added.
Mr. Azcona said that 90% of farmers tend between one and two hectares.
“We have been trying to group them into block farms of 30 hectares or more. (In) this way we can modernize them, we can give them equipment (and) assistance,” he said.
Citing tests, he said that sugar yields from block farms improved by 5-10 tons per hectare. The SRA is also preparing to distribute high-yielding varieties of cane to improve production.
Mr. Azcona said his estimate for sugar production is about 1.78 million MT, and sees demand at 2.3 million MT.
President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., who also serves as the Secretary of Agriculture, has approved the additional imports of 150,000 MT worth of sugar on the recommendation of the SRA, which said imports are necessary to avert shortages and build up a buffer stock.
National Federation of Sugarcane Planters President Enrique D. Rojas said that Mr. Azcona is “moving in the right direction” by strengthening the cooperatives.
“We hope that he will concretize this program by providing easier access for crop financing and purchase of farm equipment and inputs, so that all farmers can boost their production,” he said.
He expressed the hope the industry will return to the record output of 2.5 million MT set in 2010.
Mr. Azcona said that about 223,000 MT of refined sugar has arrived in the country from the 440,000 MT of imports authorized by Sugar Order No. 6.
Meanwhile, about 160,000 MT has been reclassified and released onto the domestic market, he said.
Mr. Rojas said that the acquisition of the food and beverage company Universal Robina Corp. (URC) of the sugar milling machinery and equipment from Central Azucarera Don Pedro, Inc. (CADPI) will provide opportunities to farmers and possibly boost overall sugar output.
The URC announced on Tuesday that it is acquiring the equipment to expand the capacity of its sugar mill in Balayan, Batangas.
In December, CADPI parent Roxas Holdings, Inc., shut down the sugar central due to “financial challenges within the current conditions affecting the sugar industry in the Batangas area.”
“With URC Group’s financial resources, CADPI can hopefully be more efficient, and this will redound to the benefit of the sugarcane farmers in that area,” the planters federation’s Mr. Rojas said. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera