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Firm finds sweet spot in organic sugar market

/ 10:15 PM October 29, 2011

MAPANDAN, Pangasinan – For the couple who put up the first company in Pangasinan to produce muscovado sugar, hopes that their endeavor will flourish stay high if not for limited technology.

“As much as we want to supply the international market, the demand of the local market alone is already too much for us,” says retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Jaime Yadao, who, together with his wife, Natividad, a chemical engineer, put up Sugarcane Gold in 2007.

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Yadao says muscovado has been in demand due to growing health awareness worldwide, with more and more people shifting to healthy organic food.

However, the slow production process simply cannot cope with the increasing demand in the local and international markets, he says.

Compared to white sugar that is produced by a machine, muscovado is produced mostly manually. Both are made from sugarcane, but muscovado is pure and unrefined, and retains the natural ingredients of the cane.

To produce muscovado, sugarcane is crushed in a mill and its juice is collected and filtered. This is cooked to produce concentrations and then dried.

Even a machine created by the Department of Science and Technology, which cost more than P1 million, could not speed up production, Yadao says.

A semi-manual device he built was better in producing quality muscovado sugar, he adds.

Sugarcane planters and millers, he says, must overcome the problem of inadequate milling equipment before they can expand operations and capture a bigger share of the market for organic sugar.

Production takes place once a year, during summer or when rains do not occur for at least a full month.

“We do not harvest sugarcane during the rainy season because they contain much water, making them less sweet,” Yadao says.

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Sugarcane Gold, which produces about 150 tons of muscovado sugar yearly, is seeking support for expansion to include Metro Manila in its market. It is also exploring export opportunities.

Before the Yadaos started producing muscovado sugar in 2007, the supply sold in Pangasinan came from the Visayas.

Now, Sugarcane Gold is the sole muscovado producer in the province. Its markets also include La Union, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, Baguio City and Tarlac.

Its sugarcane plantations in Mapandan and in nearby towns of Laoac, Manaoag and Binalonan, yield hybrid variety of sugarcane.

The company also produces sugarcane vinegar, which is naturally fermented, muscovado rocks or muscovado sugar in candy form, and “pulitipot,” a thick concentrated muscovado juice.

Yadao says nothing in their farms goes to waste because every sugarcane stalk is used.

The juice is made into muscovado sugar in powder, candy and syrup, and into vinegar, while the crushed stalks (bagasse) are used as biofuel.

“Farmers always know that everything in the farm is considered money,” Yadao says.

Yadao, whose parents are farmers from Tarlac, spent most of his life farming. His 82-year-old mother, Exaltacion Torres, is still helping him in his farm in Barangay (village) Luyan here.

While still in the military service, Yadao was overseeing his agribusiness projects.

He met his wife when he was assigned to Manaoag town in the 1980s. Natividad then worked as a chief chemist of Hind Sugar Co. until the company closed in 1997.

Wanting to dedicate his life to farming, Yadao retired in 2000 after spending 21 years in the military.

He tried various projects, such as piggery, poultry, tilapia raising and planting mango trees, corn and hybrid rice, but these did not yield much.

The couple soon realized the huge potential of sugarcane farming, particularly muscovado sugar.

With Natividad’s skills and experience in the sugar industry, the Yadaos put up Sugarcane Gold. Their products became known through trade fairs sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry and support from the DOST and the Department of Agriculture.

The Yadaos’ muscovado sugar was adopted as Mapandan’s One Town One Product (Otop) last year.

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TAGS: Business, Consumer Issues, Health, Marla Viray, Muscovado, Organic sugar, Sugarcane Gold
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