Negros eyed as first organic sugarcane producer in Asia

AN ORGANIC certifier and consultant from Australia is currently in Negros Occidental to explore the potential of the province in terms of organic sugarcane production.

Steve Bartolo, in an interview at the Provincial Capitol on Monday, said they have already been conducting some initial works like complete soil testing since last week.

Bartolo has been a member of the International Federation for Organic Agriculture Movement (Ifoam) and was into organic sugarcane production for 20 years.

With the help of the Negros Island Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (Nisard) Foundation and Organic Producers in the Island of Negros-Multipurpose Cooperative (Option-MPC), he said, they are going to introduce to the sugarcane planters in the province, especially small ones, a system of farming which can significantly improve their production.

“We are not changing the culture of sugarcane farming drastically, but only small changes in the industry to better the production outcomes and also set a difference in the marketing of organic sugar,” Bartolo said.

They also aim to get local farmers organic-ready by building a resilient system that will reduce reliance on conventional farming methods and imports, the organic advocate added.

To pitch the idea to local farmers, who have been into conventional sugarcane farming for a long time, Bartolo said they will put up a pilot demonstration field initially within the Option-MPC area at Barangay Poblacion 2 in Sagay City.

Nisard president Edgardo Uychiat said they will tap the private sector, particularly mill districts and planters in funding the establishment of the pilot demo farm.

Uychiat said that given the capacity of the small mill, like that of 500-ton per day Option-MPC, the ultimate target is to develop only a 2,000-hectare organic sugarcane farm gradually, mostly in the northern part of the province.

The Kalibutan Cooperative in Kabankalan City has already converted to organic about 20 hectares of its 120-hectare farm thus, they can also be further assisted, he added.

“If we can swing this, we will then be the first and the only island that produces organic sugar in Asia,” Uychiat said, adding that in terms of market “there is a huge one waiting for us.”

The Australian organic advocate said that the system of sugarcane farming that they are introducing is mainly manifested by less tonnage, but bigger sugar volume with high quality and market value.

The market potential of organic sugar is mainly importing countries from as far as Paraguay to US, Bartolo said.

He, however, said it will take time to fully realize the endeavor, depending on the benchmark and starting point, but not less than 12 months.
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