200,000-MT sugar importation needed to prevent shortage – group

May 13, 2024
The Philippine Star | https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2024/05/13/2354640/200000-mt-sugar-importation-needed-prevent-shortage-group

MANILA, Philippines — A producers’ group yesterday underscored the need to import 200,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar to prevent shortage in supply as it confirmed that sugarcane plantations in Negros have been severely damaged by El Niño. 

In a radio interview, United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) president Manuel Lamata said that the local sugar production would be affected as many sugarcane farms would not be able to recover.

“This (El Niño) is different). I have been engaged in farming for so long and this is the first time I (have) experienced this. When you go out, you cannot endure the heat. I never experienced this. As early as 7 a.m., I returned inside the house because of the heat,” Lamata added.

Former agriculture secretary Leonardo Montemayor has said that the damage caused by the current El Niño episode to the agriculture sector is underreported, adding that former Sugar Regulatory Administration chief Rafael Coscolluela had warned that sugar production in Negros is expected to drop by 30 percent amid the impact of drought on sugarcane plantations.

“(Sugar plantations) did not only dry up, even the cows will not eat the charred (sugarcanes),” Lamata said.

He added that the local milling would be delayed as the farmers need to plant sugarcane again.

“Once the rains start coming in, we will plant again. What will happen vis-à-vis the supply, the (local) supply will be delayed. There will be a gap. That’s where the imported sugar will come in. We need to import,” Lamata said.

He added that the importation of 185,000 MT to 200,000 MT of sugar is necessary to prevent the possible shortage in supply.

“We need to import to bridge the gap. The (volume of) 185,000 metric tons to 200,000 metric tons is just enough. It should not be more than that so that once the milling season starts, we can protect the mill gate prices of the farmers,” Lamata added.

The UNIFED head asked the provincial government to procure its own airplane that can be used for cloud seeding operations.

“I am pushing for the local government units especially the provincial government as sugar producers are here in Negros, it should prepare for clouding seeding plane in the province as the income of the province comes from agriculture,” he said.