SUGAR IMPORT. Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) Acting Administrator Pablo Luis Azcona (left) assures that the planned importation of 150,000 metric tons of refined sugar will be available for both public consumers and institutional buyers, during his interview in Radyo Pilipinas on Thursday (May 18, 2023). He said the imported sugar should enter the country by mid- or end of September. (Screengrab)

MANILA – The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) on Thursday urged farmers to form cooperatives to pursue block farming for the sugar industry.

In an interview with Radyo Pilipinas, SRA Acting Administrator Pablo Luis Azcona said this strategy would help local producers increase their yield by 5 tons to 10 tons per hectare, referring to 30 hectares to 50 hectares of block farming.

“To make it more efficient, we need to group the beneficiaries into farms, a minimum of 30 hectares… The efficiency of a tractor is about 90-95 horsepower. That’s why if their group is that big, we can give them a tractor. We can also help them with technology because they will be able to plan the planting and harvesting into one farm,” Azcona said in mixed English and Filipino.

“We also encourage the creation of new cooperatives, to make it faster and to widen our coverage… We can upsize the equipment. Because in sugarcane farming, the bigger the equipment, the more efficient and faster.”

He noted that of the 390,000 hectares of sugar plantations in the country, 90 percent belongs to farmers owning at least one hectare to two hectares of land.

“There’s no tractor small enough for one to two hectares, so pagbigay mo ng traktora at hindi sila organized, pag-aagawan nila ‘yun. Kailan ‘yung schedule ng pag-araro? 'Pag malaki silang block farm, sila mismo as a group, sila na magpa-plan… then ma-o-organize na ‘yung production cycle (so when you give a tractor and farmers are not organized, they will seize possession. When will be the schedule of plowing? But if their block farm is huge, they, as a group, will plan. Then the production cycle will be organized),” he said.

Sugar importation

Azcona, meanwhile, said the SRA would finalize the actual production data by the end of the month.

“Itong month of May na lang na actual production na lang ‘yung hinihintay natin para po ma-present natin sa pangulo ‘yung actual volume na kailangan i-import (We are just waiting for the actual production this May to present to the President the actual volume to be imported),” he said.

“It’s about almost 150,000 (metric tons) naman po talaga ‘yung kailangan natin. Mayroon tayong mga kakulangan na 50,000 MT. And the 100,000 MT po will serve as a one-month na buffer po natin, lagpas kaunti sa one month (We need almost 150,000 MT. We have a shortfall of 50,000 MT. And the 100,000 MT will serve as a buffer stock for a month or a little over a month),” he added.

Azcona said importers, public consumers, and institutional buyers would all have access to this stock.

The DA on Wednesday noted that the 150,000 MT of importation would help reduce the prices of sugar.

“The prices will be ranging from PHP80 to PHP90 per kilo,” Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban said in an interview.

To date, the price per kg. of refined sugar in Metro Manila ranges from PHP86 to PHP110. (PNA)