RAW SUGAR production in the Philippines is expected to increase 2% for the marketing year (MY) 2020-2021 due to improved sugarcane genetics and farm management, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) said.

In a report, the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service said raw sugar production could hit 2.19 million metric tons (MT), against 2.15 million MT in the previous year.

The USDA said the increase is due to the initiatives of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) that include the use of hybrid seed, extension programs, and the introduction of better farm management methods.

However, the USDA said that raw sugar output estimates may be affected by the La Niña weather phenomenon, after the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration issued an alert for the Visayas and Mindanao for the fourth quarter of 2020.

“If realized, the likely impact would be a moderate decline in production,” the USDA report said.

Land planted to sugarcane for MY 2020-2021 is estimated at 401,000 hectares due to labor shortages and the cautious stance of sugar planters due to government plans to liberalize the industry.

“Currently about 40% of raw sugar production goes to refining, with the rest consumed directly as raw or brown sugar,” the USDA said.

Meanwhile, domestic sugar consumption for MY 2020-2021 is projected to increase to 2.3 million MT as the country’s economy opens up and institutional buyers such as hotels and restaurants resume their operations after being shuttered by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The USDA said sugar imports for the period are estimated to drop to 200,000 MT due to the high refined sugar inventory at the end of the last MY of 356,000 MT.

The SRA recently allotted 7% or about 153,000 MT of the projected 2.19 million MT output for 2020-2021 for the United States market, under the “A” classification.

The USDA said that adding carryover “A” sugar from the previous year will allow the Philippines to meet the US quota for MY 2020-2021. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave