AS SUGARCANE production continues to drop, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Davao del Sur sees this as an opportunity for investment.

With more than 6,000 hectares of sugarcane needed in order for the region's sugar mill, the Davao Sugar Central Company Inc. (Dasuseco), to run at full capacity, DTI-Davao del Sur Provincial Director Edwin O. Banquerigo said the supply shortage raised by the sugar industry will open up opportunities for the local farmers.

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"On the concern of the Dasuseco, farmers near them can actually consider planting sugarcane to meet the demand of the company. The location of sugarcane farms must be around 70 kilometers from the mill for full profitability," Banquerigo said in an interview Tuesday.

With the shortage in supply, the DTI will now include sugarcane plantations as one of the priority investment areas in Davao Region. This will include the aggressive promotion of the sector in future investment promotion activities.

In an earlier interview, the sugar sector revealed that the prolonged dry spell brought about by the El Niño phenomenon is not only adversely affecting Davao Region's power stability, but is also taking its toll on the production of sugar.

In a dialogue with top executives of the province of Davao del Sur, DTI-Davao Director Marizon Loreto found out that the Davao del Sur Sugar Central is not operating at full capacity for its sugar production.

Davao del Sur Sugar Central general manager Constancio Galinato said the sugar mill is only operating at about 66 percent capacity due to the shortage of sugarcane to be processed.

"At present, only over 12,000 hectares are planted to sugarcane but 18,000 hectares is needed to operate at full capacity. An additional 6,000 hectares sugar area is still needed. This is an investment opportunity for consideration," Galinato said.

However, the El Niño phenomenon further threatens the sugar mill as it has been nearly nine weeks since a reasonable amount of rain fall was experienced in the province.

"Cloud seeding can be done before it's too late. We are willing to contribute a portion of the chemical requirements for the cloud seeding," Galinato urged the government agency.

The sugar mill general manager said their production was only pegged at 400,000 metric tons last year, a decline of 20 percent from the previous year's 500,000 metric tons.