Manila: The Philippines’ sugarcane industry has received a P314-million grant from the Japanese government as part of the farm mechanization program, the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said on Thursday, reported Phil Star.
The grant is part of a 2021 agreement between the Department of Finance (DOF), the SRA, and Japan.
Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) administrator Pablo Azcona expressed appreciation for the timely assistance, remarking, “(The grant is) very timely as we just started the new milling season, and we in the industry are grateful to both the Japanese government and our own for this initiative that will go a long way in helping our sugar farmers become more efficient and productive.”
The grant falls under the Japan Non-Project Grant Aid and encompasses the provision of 80 tractor units and various other essential farm equipment. These resources will be strategically allocated, with 15 units designated for sugarcane areas in Luzon, 51 units in the Visayas, and 14 in Mindanao.
Specifically, 24 units will be dispatched to Negros Occidental in the Visayas, 11 to Negros Oriental, six to Iloilo, four to Leyte, and three each to Cebu and Capiz. Additionally, the grant includes 48 sugarcane planters, 48 lateral flair mowers, and five power harrows.
Under the terms of the 2021 agreement, the SRA will assume ownership of the farm machinery and implements and is obligated to furnish an impact assessment report to the DOF and Japan three years following the program’s implementation. These machinery and implements will be entrusted to select farmers’ groups, subject to a fee proportional to maintenance costs, ensuring the sustainability of the program.
As of now, the Philippines maintains a two-month buffer stock of sugar, eliminating the need for sugar imports for the remainder of the year, according to the SRA. Azcona emphasized in a radio interview, “There may be more, but the administration has two months or more buffer stock. We have a stable supply.”
For the current crop year, 2023-2024, spanning from September 1 to August 30, 2024, the SRA estimates total sugar production will reach approximately 1.85 million metric tons.
“The milling started on Sept. 1 as we delayed the crushing. Last year, it was in August. We already saw the effect of delaying milling to Sept. 1; there is an increase in the yield,” he said. He further mentioned that the current weather conditions remain favorable.
However, Azcona voiced concerns about Negros, a major sugar-producing region, stating, “What we are afraid of is in Negros, where the majority of production comes from. The soil is a bit dry in November to January, and then if there will be severe El Niño, the growing sugarcane for harvest maybe sometime in March, April, May will be affected.” He added that if the country does not experience severe El Niño, there might be a slight increase in sugar production.
In its Sugar Order No. 1 S-2023-2024, the SRA projected sugar production to be around 1.85 million metric tons, designated as “B” for the domestic market by mill companies, despite a sugar oversupply.