A store employee arranges packs of sugar at a supermarket in Quezon City, Oct. 16, 2022. — PHILIPPINE STAR/MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

THE Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said it will stick to plans for a September opening to milling season, rejecting appeals from planters to begin in August.

“We will start in September to give the farmers an opportunity to earn more,” the SRA said, noting that more mature cane will result in greater yields.

SRA Acting Administrator Pablo Luis S. Azcona told reporters on Tuesday that the ultimate goal in raising output is to become self-sufficient in sugar.

Three planter federations — the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations, Inc., the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, Inc. and the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers, Inc. — appealed to the SRA to start the milling season in August, which was the start date set a year earlier.

They said the August season start in 2022 was caused by the shortage of sugar.

The groups claimed that delaying the start of milling operations may lead to overripe cane that had been planted in April this year rather than May.

According to Mr. Azcona, the Sept. 1 start is the long-standing practice, and is “based on science and weather patterns.”

Citing the results of a simulation in August and September last year, he said milling in September has enabled farmers to have more sugar yield, plus the price difference of P3,300 per bag in Sept 2022, up from P2,800 a month earlier.

“So, it’s a big difference… about 700 million (pesos) lost opportunity, especially since those who milled in August are our small farmer beneficiaries, so sayang naman (it would be a waste if they lose) the opportunity to earn more.”

Mr. Azcona said the industry was amply informed of the return to the traditional September start via a memorandum circular issued in May.

“(Out of) the 24 mills that we wrote, (only two mills asked) for reconsideration, and one of the two eventually agree to Sept. 1. So, at the moment, just one mill is questioning the September opening,” he said. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera