The Sugar Regulatory Administration is conducting a thorough assessment of the damage of typhoon "Pablo" on sugarcane crops, which may cause a drop in this year’s production, SRA administrator Ma. Regina Bautista Martin said yesterday.
“We have to inspect and verify the effects of the damages”, she said, pointing out that some planters and millers have reported damages due to flooding and lodging in Bukidnon, where the typhoon passed.
“We have only one SRA staff who will make the assessment in each mill district, so we coordinate with the mills, the planters association and the mill district development councils to acquire a picture of the whole situation”, Martin said.
Flooding of sugarcane crops during the growing stages – if they survive – usually bring down sugar recovery, she explained.
“If the crop is uprooted or dies, then total loss is expected. If the crop suffers from lodging due to strong winds, it will usually recover and stand erect again, but still the sugar recovery will be affected,” she said.
There are initial reports of about 8-10 percent sugar loss in the Bukidnon mill district, or about 30,000 metric tons of sugar, due to typhoon damages, she said. But that has yet to be confirmed as additional information are coming in, which could increase the damages, she added.
Meanwhile, Martin and leaders of three sugar federations yesterday said a sugar master plan is in place and is already being enforced to prepare the sugar industry for 2015, when the tariff on imported sugar entering the country drops to five percent.
Senatorial candidate Miguel Zubiri of Bukidnon Wednesday called on government to release or publish the master development plan of the sugar industry to small farmers, claiming that it was only shared with presidents of sugar associations.
“I am sorry if I hurt the feelings of some people in the sugar industry, but I am only telling the truth about the sentiments of farmers in Bukidnon,” he said.
Martin said she had gone to Bukidnon two times already to talk to the small farmers there about the master plan, or road map for the sugar industry, that was drawn up together with sugar industry stakeholders.
Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, and Manuel Lamata, president of the United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines, said Zubiri should ask the planter federation he belongs to, the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations, for a briefing.
Martin said Pablo Lorenzo, chairman of the Bukidnon Mill District Council, knows that she has spoken to the Bukidnon farmers milling with the Bukidnon Sugar Milling Co. and the Crystal Sugar Milling Co., about the master plan during her visits there last year and this year.
She said sugar industry stakeholders had united in coming up with the sugar industry road map, acknowledging that “not by sugar alone can we survive” by 2015.
In fact, sugar mills are now working on becoming more efficient and on diversifying their production, she said.
She cited the preparations being made by several mills for ethanol production and moves towards also producing biodegradable plastics from cane waste.
Martin also cited efforts of the SRA and Department of Agrarian Reform to consolidate agrarian reform beneficiaries into farm blocks to ensure that, collectively, they can make a larger profit on their sugarcane produce.
Lamata said Zubiri should complain to CONFED if his members were not properly informed about the sugar master plan.
“Or better yet Migz, you and your group are welcome to join UNIFED, you might like our services better,” Lamata said.
Zubiri’s father, Vice Gov. Jose Maria Zubiri, is a former CONFED president.
Lamata said the sugar industry has a consolidated master plan that is in existence.
He furnished the DAILY STAR a book-bound copy of the “Master Plan for the Sugar Industry 2010-2015”, published by the Sugar Master Plan Foundation, to prove his point.
The preface of the book, which also carries a message from Martin, states that the master plan is meant to be a guide for the implementation of doable work plans for the years leading to 2015.
Rojas said SRA and the sugar alliance worked together in preparing the master plan.
In line with the master plan, SRA has secured the commitment of oil companies to buy all locally-produced ethanol and ERC has also issued feed in tariff for electricity produced by biomass producers, like sugar mills, he said.
The master plan targets production of 70 to 75 ton canes per hectare and yield of 2.1 LKg per ton cane, Rojas said.
“We are already on the way to achieving this with HYVs from Philsurin. The master plan also aims to reduce production cost by getting access to cheaper fertilizer, securing financing for farm mechanization and improvement of mill efficiency, and constructing irrigation systems and farm to mill roads,” he said.
However, there have been no concrete plans or commitment from government on how to achieve this, he said.
To know more about the master plan, Rojas suggested that Zubiri asks the planters’ federation where he belongs, CONFED, for a briefing.
CONFED president Rafael Coscolluela said he informed Zubiri of the existence of the master plan, but part of the problem is communicating down to individual members of associations.
Zubiri was getting feedback from small planters in Bukidnon that they were not aware of a master plan, he said.
The big challenge is communicating to all the planters about what is being done,” Coscolluela said.
Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. said stakeholders of the sugar industry should have a unified plan, not separate ones, in order for the industry to move forward.*CPG