Sugar farmers, planters seek early start of milling
Sugarcane farmers and planters’ federations are asking the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to consider starting the next milling season a month earlier than the original schedule, as hectares of canes would already be due for harvest in August and farmers risk suffering at least 30 days of no fresh income.
In its letter to SRA acting administrator Pablo Luis Azcona, the Sugar Council—a group composed of the Confederation of Sugar Producers’ Associations Inc., the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters Inc., and the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers Inc.—said any delay in milling could lower the weight and sugar yield of mature canes, resulting in lower sugar production and lower returns for farmers.
“Hectares of standing canes are due for harvest in August. A year ago, in June 2022, the national government urged us to start milling early,” the Sugar Council said, noting that sugar farmers milled at least 432,356 tons last year to support the government’s call.
NFSP president Enrique Rojas explained to the Inquirer that mills need the SRA’s approval before they could start milling.
“Without SRA approval, any sugar produced by the unsanctioned mill will not be issued a sugar quedan. Without the quedan, the sugar is deemed illegal and can’t be sold to traders,” he said.
In May, President Marcos delayed the start of the sugar milling season for crop year 2023 to 2024 from August to September to improve raw sugar yields.
However, the Sugar Council pointed out that around 400,000 tons of ratoon plants were now mature, and that delaying their harvest to September “will cause them to become overripe, compromising purity and tonnage.”
At the same time, the group stressed that sugar farmers were “in dire need of fresh income” after months of no work in their farms since milling finished in April this year, which was earlier than the traditional May to June.
“Sugar farmers have already contracted cane cutters, and delaying milling to September will force them to financially support the workers or risk losing them,” the Sugar Council explained.
“If milling will start on Sept. 1, this will create an overwhelming demand for farm workers, which are already on short supply, and for hauling services of truckers.
Farmers are apprehensive that this unprecedented demand for farm labor and hauling services will give rise to an unhealthy competition, thereby driving up their production costs,” it added.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.