MANILA, Philippines — A state–run agency will carry out a benchmark study of Region 6’s muscovado with Queensland’s prominent organic sugarcane sector to bring to significant economic value from this produce.

The Negros State College of Agriculture (NSCA) is availing of a P2.89 million grant from the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) to enable possible adoption of supply chain best practices from Queensland, Australia.

“This component, which started in October 2011, is a comprehensive analysis of the muscovado supply chain in Antique and a benchmark study in Queensland, Australia, which has the biggest concentration of organically managed sugarcane farms worldwide,” reported PCAARRD’s Ofelia F. Domingo.

Industry authorities want to adopt supply chain best practices in Queensland as organic sugarcane is one of Queensland’s largest organic produce.

Sugar in general is Australia’s second largest export crop and Queensland’s largest rural commodity as 94.2 percent of Australia’s raw sugarcane production comes from Queensland, according to Selwyn Johnston. Queensland’s raw sugar brings it $2 billion in sales yearly.

The NSCA will also conduct a technology demonstration of outstanding cultural practices in producing muscovado, also generally considered organic sugarcane.

“Trials will be set up in farmers’ fields to demonstrate organic sugarcane production and processing in Negros Occidental and Antique. Results of the demonstration trials will be compared with farmers’ existing inorganic method of sugarcane production.“

The trials already started in December 2011.

Farmers are expected to see how changes in their practices – land preparation, choice of variety, nutrient management, and pest control management – can raise yield of sugarcane.

The two-year study will also be counterpart-funded by other agencies at P1.2 million.

The country’s muscovado industry has good commercial prospects as world market price was at $1.44 per kilo in 2005 based on export to Netherlands, the US, Japan, and Italy, according to Agribusinessweek.

The interest in muscovado, an unrefined brown sugar, has intensified with global health consciousness. Muscovado goes through minimal processing, and some raw material sugarcane plants are organically grown, thus free from excessive chemicals.

Unlike coconut sap sugar which has very low glycemic index – making it good for diabetics – but has limited supply, muscovado can be mass produced.

Coconut sap sugar is still tedious to produce with the labor-intensive harvesting of sap from coconut inflorescence. Its supply is also limited.

Sugarcane yield in Australia is among the world’s highest with an average of 98 metric tons per hectare while that of Philippines reaches to only around 50 MT, just about half.

One known good practice in sugarcane growing in Queensland is zonal tillage or the tilling only of uncompacted soil, according to the Queensland government.

This encourages build-up of beneficial soil organisms, improved moisture retention in the soil, higher of organic matter as it promotes soil’s biological activity.

Muscovado is also produced in Pangasinan, Tarlac, Batangas, Budkinon, Davao del Sur, Sultan Kudarat, and North Cotabato.

However, Region 6, mainly Negros Occidental, is still the highest sugar producer in the country.

source: mb

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