This is going to be a sweet year for the country’s sugar industry.

Enjoying a bumper harvest, the Philippines is poised to export at least 300,000 metric tons of raw and refined sugar this year, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said Friday.

The 300,000 MT would be the country’s biggest export volume since the 1990s, according to data from the Philippine Sugar Millers Association (PSMA).

The sugar industry’s performance this year mirrored the gains in other crops. Rice and corn, the two main staples of the country, also showed robust recovery in the first half of the year.

Harvests of palay or unmilled rice and corn were at 7.58 million MT and 3.31 million MT, respectively. These were the largest volumes of harvests recorded for both crops in the first semester.

In the last few years, export volumes ranged between 100,000 and 200,000 MT, data from PSMA showed.

The country’s sugarcane fields yielded a harvest of 2.39 million MT for the crop year of 2010-2011, a 21.3-percent improvement over last year’s volume, the Department of Agriculture said.

Alcala said the bumper harvest would allow the country to expand its export volume in 2011. In the future, he said, the Philippines may also cease to import sugar.

Great strides

“We have been making great strides in sugar production the past year. This may very well be the start of the country producing more than enough to meet its domestic requirements and quota obligations, and also ensure that sugar farmers have a reasonable, sufficient, and ‘livable’ income,” Alcala said.

He said the DA was eyeing the sale of sugar to neighboring Asian countries. Recently, Indonesia, China, South Korea and Japan said they would buy sugar from the Philippines.

The Philippines also exports a limited amount of sugar to the United States under a preferential treatment scheme.

Sugar used to be a major export crop of the Philippines.

In the 1970s, the country was a net sugar exporter, selling as much as two million MT, according to data from PSMA. Exports and production subsequently declined due to low mechanization and a monopoly during the Marcos era.

Lower demand

The crops subsector—which contributed more than half (51.8 percent) of total agricultural output—grew by 11.1 percent. Overall, the country’s agriculture sector grew by 5.48 percent in the first semester of the year.

The reserve sugar harvest for export increased not only due to the high yield but also because of reduced demand.

According to the DA, the supply of raw sugar increased five-fold to more than 623,500 MT. Sugar consumption, on the other hand, dipped to 1.5 million MT this year, from 1.8 million MT in CY 2009-10.

This led to a drop in raw sugar prices. According to the DA data, the price of raw sugar fell from a high of P2,480 per 50-kilo bag to P1,300 this year.

Refined sugar demand also declined to 655,840 MT, 31 percent less than last year, leaving a balance of more than 300,000 MT.

Sweeter future

“We look forward to build from these gains next year, as more farms are planted and program interventions continue for CY 2011-2012,” he said.

Alcala said the government aimed to boost the sugarcane industry to ensure local supply and make the country attractive to bioethanol producers.

He said the DA wanted to improve the efficiency and productivity of small farms. According to Sugar Regulatory Administration data, about half of the country’s sugarcane fields are less than 5 hectares.

Alcala also said the DA planned to build better infrastructure for sugarcane planters and millers. This would mean bigger and automated loading ports, more farm-to-mill roads and better irrigation facilities.

source: newsinfo.inquirer.net

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