Sugar Regulatory Administrator Ma. Regina Martin yesterday briefed Negros Occidental officials on a master plan to harmonize efforts for the survival of the country’s sugarcane industry beyond 2015, when tariffs on imports drop to a nominal five percent.
Martin rallied the provincial officials to support the SRA efforts at creating block farms to ensure economic viability, and to provide livelihood opportunities.
The Negros Occidental officials were also briefed on the potential of the sugarcane industry to produce alternative products, such as ethanol and electricity.
The meeting that was attended by Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., Vice Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson and members of the provincial board, was held at the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters building in Bacolod City.
NFSP president Enrique Rojas said his federation is thankful that, in coordination with the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations, headed by Rafael Coscolluela, SRA and the Sugar Master Plan Foundation, they were able to facilitate the SRA presentation to the provincial officials.
They are also grateful to the provincial officials for accepting the invitation, he added.
“We came up with this presentation so that our provincial officials will be updated on the status of the sugar industry and will also know the preparations of the industry for 2015, among which are the consolidation of small farms into more viable plantation sizes and the ventures into ethanol production and cogeneration of electricity,” Rojas said.
“Through this presentation, we hope that sugar industry stakeholders, the SRA and the provincial government can work hand in hand in ensuring the sustainability of the industry beyond 2015, and that we can come up with a coordinated approach in realizing the cogeneration and ethanol potentials of our sugarcane,” he also said.
Martin said the meeting was aimed at harmonizing efforts, which, on the part of the provincial government, could include building of farm-to-market roads and setting up irrigation systems.
She said local officials can also help convince small farmers to engage in block farming for more efficient farm yield.
Martin pointed out that 90 percent of sugarcane farms in the country have areas of 10 hectares or less.
Smaller farms are increasing in number through natural subdivision due to inheritance, sale and agrarian reform, but sugarcane is a plantation crop with high profitability when operated as large farms, she said.
Consolidating the small farms into a “block farm” will ensure operational efficiency to increase productivity, reduce cost, and ultimately increase the income of small farmers, she said.
Small farms should be consolidated into block farms with aggregate areas of no less than 30-50 hectares, through various innovative schemes, like lease, joint venture, partnership, and sharing, she also said.
So far, there are 16 block farms consisting of 30 hectares each in Negros Occidental, Martin said.
Professional farm managers should manage each block farm to make them succeed, she said.
Vice Governor Lacson said the provincial officials appreciate the briefing because while they are all from Negros Occidental, not all of them are sugarcane planters and they need to know the status of the industry with 2015 fast approaching.
He totally agrees with the need for block farming to ensure productivity, Lacson said.*CPG