Millers assure continuous investments to upgrade domestic sugar production

September 28, 2022
Business Mirror |

The Philippine Sugar Millers Association (PSMA) on Tuesday said that the industry would continue to invest to improve its operations amid concerns about the country’s competitiveness and “aging” mills.

In news statement, PSMA allayed concerns regarding the sugar milling industry’s capacity and efficiency to produce raw sugar amid the country’s tight supply for the commodity.

“Unknown to many, sugar factories in the country have been undergoing rehabilitation and modernization to cope with the changing market environment,” PSMA said.

PSMA added the modernization of sugar mills started when the government decided to privatize government-owned factories and when the sugar industry was included in the Investment Priorities Plan (IPP) in the 1990s.

“During this period alone, mills have invested P20 billion on new production systems and operations,” PSMA said.

The PSMA noted that the number of sugar mills in the country has been reduced to 28 from 41 in the 1990s.

“Most of those that did not implement upgrades have stopped operating,” PSMA explained.

PSMA Deputy Director for  Programs Oscar L. Cortes explained that the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) keeps track of “all new equipment installed by the mills.”

Cortes added that the year of establishment of a sugar mill is “not indicative of the condition of the installed equipment and technical performance.”

“Industry reports published by the SRA show that sugar recovery has increased from 78 percent in the 1990’s to more than 81 percent in the last three years,” PSMA said.

Earlier this month, the new SRA board disclosed that it would  prioritize attaining the country’s sugar self-sufficiency instead of security as ordered by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

SRA board members led by SRA Administrator David John Thaddeus Alba revealed that the marching order of Marcos is for the country to achieve self-sufficiency in sugar, which means reducing dependency on imports.

Alba pointed out that the SRA would improve the country’s sugar production by providing “direct” services to farmers, particularly to agrarian reform beneficiaries who have comparatively lower output.

The direct services, Alba explained, include advancement in research and development, improved laboratory services, among others.

Alba added that the SRA will implement a “big brother, small brother” program that would allow mentoring among sugarcane farmers, especially between those producing higher yields and those with lower yields.

SRA board member Ma. Mitzi Mangwag, who represents the milling sector, said she would advocate  for better sugar milling efficiency.

“To be more efficient we need better quality canes. It takes two to tango,” she said. “We will work hard to surmount the challenges ahead in order for the sugar industry to come out stable in the end,” Mangwag added.