ENRIQUE D. Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP), Inc., is not optimistic that the sugar industry can reach the revised raw sugar production estimate recently released by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).

SRA initially projected that raw sugar production for Crop Year 2009-2010 will reach 2.18 million metric tons. The crop year started on September 1, 2009 and ends on August 31, 2010.

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Intervening factors, particularly too much rain at the start of the crop year followed by the prolonged dry weather conditions brought about by the El Niño phenomenon, have resulted to a noticeable decrease in the number of tons cane harvested per hectare. This prompted the SRA to revise its previous estimate which was released late last year.

“The revised SRA raw sugar production estimate as of February 2010 projected that the sugar industry can produce only 2.11 million metric tons. This revised estimate was presented to us by SRA Administrator Lito Coscolluela during the regular meeting of the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines last March 10,” Rojas disclosed.

Total tons cane in the Visayas is projected to drop by 635,000 mt to 14.21 million mt from the previous estimate of 14.85 million mt. Luzon and Mindanao’s total cane tonnage was also adjusted from 7.83 million mt to only 7.32 million mt, a decrease of more than 500,000 mt.

Visayas sugar raw production is expected to drop from 1.42 million mt to only 1.4 million mt while Luzon and Mindanao raw sugar production is also projected to drop from 760,000 mt to only 717,162 mt.

According to Rojas, SRA’s revised estimate of 2.11 million mt is an optimistic projection but it is doubtful if it can be achieved.

“Based on reports from our members from Cagayan Valley up north and down to Cotabato and Davao coupled with my personal observations on what has been happening here in Negros, I do not think that the revised estimate of 2.11 million mt can be achieved,” Rojas said.

Rojas cited reports that some sugarcane farms in central Negros had been harvesting less than 60 tons cane per hectare since December 2009. Central Negros farms averaged upwards of 70 to 80 tons cane per hectare in previous years.

“Sugarcane farms in central Negros are the traditional topnotchers in terms of productivity. If these very productive farms are experiencing decrease in productivity, you can only imagine what the less productive and less fertile farms in other parts of the country are going through in terms of productivity,” he explained.

The sugar industry will be fortunate if its production this crop year can surpass 2 million metric tons, Rojas added. (Butch Bacaoco)