The Philippines is in the position to produce more sugar now because there will be a significant increase in the demand for it in Asia in the next five years.
This was the projection made by Robert Day, managing director of ED&F Man International Sugar, who spoke before a gathering of sugar planters organized by the Philippine Sugar Alliance at Nature’s Village Resort in Talisay City yesterday.
Asia is entering into a structural change as far as sugar production and demand is concerned, demand and consumption will outpace production, Day said.
“This is important when you think about the value of sugar in Asia versus the value of sugar in the West. It has very positive implications for growers in Asia as consumption gets steeper because we are entering a time where the core demand for sugar as a food product is increasing,” Day said.
But as of January 2013, there was a surplus of about 8 million MT of sugar in Asia, and about 4.5 to 5 MT of it needs to be shipped out to the world market, Day said.
Sugar Regulatory Administrator Ma. Regina Martin said in two years time, the Philippines has to face the challenge of increasing production, while reducing production cost.
“Efficiency is still the name of the game. We have to become more efficient with our production, like China and Thailand,” Martin said.
Martin said the SRA is organizing agrarian reform beneficiaries into block farms so they can avail of bigger profits.
Day’s projections show a positive future for the next five years, and the biggest consumption of sugar will come from Asia, she said.
“It will be beneficial to the Philippines that we can export sugar to importing countries like Indonesia, China, Bangladesh, and Japan. With this, we look forward to a brighter future when the demand is going to be more than doubled,” Martin said.
Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, said “We are glad to hear from Day that the long-term prospects for sugar are upbeat. After tariff on sugar is lifted in 2015, planters can look forward to an improvement in sugar prices.”
Rafael Coscolluela, president of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Association, and former governor of Negros Occidental, said the big fight for the sugar industry in the next two years is getting the sympathy and support of the government.
The sugarcane industry is one sector in agriculture that needs more favorable attention, he said.
“We have to put in place government policies that will encourage the growth of sugarcane production as the base for sugar, power, and fuel,” Coscolluela said.
People will get discouraged especially with the 2015 scenario and there might be some who will think that the future of sugar is bleak, he said.
When asked about the proposed Sugarcane Industry Development Act authored by Rep. Alfredo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District), Coscolluela said “I am not too sure whether we, in fact, need another law.”
The efforts toward the passage of the act might have been misdirected and there are things that the government can do for the sugarcane industry that will not require a law, he said.
All it requires is government administrative policies, he added.
Manuel Lamata, president of the United Sugar Federation of the Philippines, said they are not only having problems with highly-subsidized imported sugar but with the latest discovery of two smuggled shipments of sugar at the port of Cebu that contained shabu.
Lamata said people are tainting the sugar industry, but what is worst is that they bring in drugs to the country to accumulate money for the elections.
Meanwhile, Philippine sugar production has reached 1,878,000 metric tons as of March 3, against the 2,356,338 MT target for crop year 2012-2013, Martin said.
She said the SRA is positive the target will be reached as they only need about 500,000 MT more.
Jose Rojo Alisla of SRA and alternate member of the National Biofuels Board, said based on the performance on sugar milling by region, Negros Occidental is 87 percent complete, Luzon 72 percent, Panay 81 percent, Eastern Visayas 54 percent, and Mindanao 67 percent.*LTG