SUGAR production for the current crop year has already exceeded initial estimates despite the onslaught of El Niño, according to the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).
Latest data from the SRA showed that the country’s raw-sugar production as of June 26 has reached 2.235 million metric tons (MMT), 4.44 percent higher than the 2.14 MMT projected by the agency.
However, the latest sugar production is 3.8 percent lower than the previous year’s record of 2.32 MMT.
“The production target of 2.14 MMT was based on the prolonged El Niño last year, which extended until the first quarter of 2016,” SRA Administrator Ma. Regina Bautista-Martin told the BusinessMirror.
“However, some farms, especially in Negros, were having double crops at the onset of the rainy season in May to catch up with the planting of new canes for the next crop,” Martin added.
She said about 3,000 small-scale farmers, particularly in Negros provinces, harvested twice within the current crop year, which will end on August 31.
Martin said farmers took advantage of the rainy season and harvested the cane top of some plants to use as planting materials for the next crop season.
“It started to rain again so they felt they could harvest and plant new crops. They looked for planting materials, so they cut the top of the canes and planted those. The rest were milled,” she said.
Sugarcane grows and matures within a year before it can be harvested. Unless uprooted, the stubbles left from the plant can be grown and harvested again in nine to 10 months as ratoon canes. Sugar has two to three ratoon cycles, according to Martin.
SRA policy and planning officer Rosemarie Gumera said only Option Sugar Mill in Sagay, Negros Occidental, remains operational, but its output is expected to be “minimal.”
Philippine Sugar Millers Association Inc. President Francisco D. Varua said local traders have not yet shipped the additional allocation they obtained from the US Trade Representative (USTR) under the tariff-rate quota scheme.
“As of now, we are still studying the situation. We still have two months to decide whether to ship or not, and this has to be decided by the new SRA administrator,” Varua told the BusinessMirror.
Martin also deferred the decision concerning the shipment of the additional sugar allocation to her replacement. She said the new SRA chief may be appointed in the next two to three weeks.
“We can only hope that the administrator will be as transparent and as diligent as the past administrator,” Varua said.
In March the USTR reallocated 12,194 metric tons raw value (MTRV) of sugar to the Philippines, after some countries failed to meet their quota.
Another 19,336 MTRV have been added to Manila’s allocation in May, when Washington decided to add 127,006 MTRV to its minimum TRQ volume committed to the World Trade Organization.
These are on top of the original volume of 135,508 MT allocated by the USTR for the current fiscal year.
The Philippines initially imported 170,000 MT of sugar to displace the 135,508 MT exported by local traders and to stabilize local supply and prices.
The SRA recently allowed the importation of an additional 100,000 MT to stabilize domestic sugar prices.
Martin said the agency is hoping that sugar output in the next crop year, which will begin on September 1, will recover.
“(Planting) is going to be delayed because of the late onset of the rains. The cane’s gestation period may take longer, maybe a month or two. Despite the delay, we see it will have an improvement on production,” she said.
At this point, PSMA said it is “still too early” to project sugar output in the next crop year.