Sanchez: Sugar value chains

THE problem with the Negrense sugar industry is perhaps its value chain. It’s so tied up with sugar’s food based end-products.

No wonder the issue in the province between the industry and Coca-Cola and even Pepsi-Cola. There seems to be no room for a compromise, a zero-sum game.

And yet Senator Cynthia Villar, head of the Senate agriculture and food committee, recently bewailed that the P600 million allocated for loans to sugar farmers as mandated by the Sugar Industry Development Act (Sida) have yet to be availed of by the intended beneficiaries.

Villar said that the snail-paced utilization of what should be a P2-billion annual allocation under the law for the sugar industry will reduce its 2018 budget to P1.2 billion.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol agrees with the senadora. He said that in 2016, less than 50 percent of the P2 billion was used, the reason why the DBM removed the P1 billion for infra.

Said Piñol “My concept of governance is, if you do not utilize the funds given to you and your department, it’s not only an indication that you are not doing anything, it’s an indication that you did not deliver to the people what they should get. That’s a disservice.”

Well, the sugar industry could be doing much, much more if it thinks out of the box. It turns out that sugar can be more than a sweetener.

Said Dr. Antoine Buchard, Whorrod Research Fellow in the University of Bath’s Department of Chemistry, said: “With an ever-growing population, there is an increasing demand for plastics. This new plastic is a renewable alternative to fossil-fuel based polymers, potentially inexpensive, and, because it is biodegradable, will not contribute to growing ocean and landfill waste.”

Amen to that. Bath scientists have made alternative polycarbonates from sugars and carbon dioxide in a new process that uses low pressures and room temperature, making it cheaper and safer to produce.

The raw materials are simple and plenty in Negros Occidental. This new type of polycarbonate can be biodegraded back into carbon dioxide and sugar using enzymes from soil bacteria.

This new plastic is bio-compatible so could in the future be used for medical implants or as scaffolds for growing replacement organs for transplant.

Under Sida’s budget are: P100 million for scholarships, P300 million for block farms, P300 million for socialized credit, P300 million for research and development, and P1 billion for infrastructure.

So there are enough funds for innovation. The province can provide scholarships to its best brightest young scientists to study abroad and here at home to research on new industry-related technologies.

With Negros Occidental as the country’s solar capital, it can transform the province from monoculture agriculture into an industrialized green economy.

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