LET me share with you the production highlights as of May 30, 2010 as well as other relevant information which Cane Points was able to get hold of from the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP).  

Nene Rojas, the NFSP president, makes sure that these info trickle down to all Federation members all over the country. Through this column, other sugar producers and industry stakeholders can also have access to these info. 

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Almost all mills have practically stopped milling as of May 30. Thus, the figures as of that date will most likely be the final figures for Crop Year 2009-2010. 

Gross ton canes milled as of May 30 registered at 19.2 million mt. It dropped by more than 10 percent compared to the previous crop year but raw sugar production dropped only by more than 5 percent.  

The 10 percent drop in production was compensated by the improvement in yield. From an average LKg / Ton Cane of 1.95 last crop year, the yield improved to an average of 2.05 LKg / Ton Cane as of May 30. 

As of May 30, raw sugar production reached only 1.97 million metric tons which is roughly 200,000 mt short of the initial estimate at the start of the crop year. Compared to the previous crop year’s production of 2.08 million mt, the current crop year’s production decreased by 5.36 percent. 

For refined sugar, production as of May 30 reached 925,510 mt. This represents an increase of almost 9 percent compared to last crop year’s refined sugar production of 849,708 mt. 

Domestic raw sugar withdrawals climbed an astonishing 21.76 percent, from 1.37 million last crop year to 1.67 million mt. or an increase of almost 300,000 mt. Refined sugar withdrawals also increased by 5.48 percent, from 777,101 mt. last crop year to 819,711 mt. this crop year. 

Raw sugar stock balance as of May 30 is almost half lower than the stock balance for the same period last year. From a stock balance of 804,082 mt. as of May 30, 2009, the raw sugar stock balance as of May 30, 2010 dropped by 47.58 percent to only 421,540 mt. 

Refined sugar stock balance as of May 30 is also significantly lower compared to the same period last crop year. From a stock balance of 368,548 mt. last May 30, 2009, the refined sugar stock balance as of May 30, 2010 dropped by 22.67 percent to only 284,995 mt.  

Combined raw and refined sugar stock balance as of May 30 is 706,535 mt. This is hardly comforting because it has been observed that domestic monthly sugar consumption from September to May exceeds 200,000 mt.  

With domestic consumption at more than 200,000 mt. per month, the combined stock balance is barely enough to last until the end of August.

 

It should not be much of a problem if the mills can begin operations before August ends, as some Negros mills traditionally do. However, this might not be the case during the next milling season. 

According to industry leaders, the opening of the next milling season might be delayed due to stunted cane growth and damage to crops brought by El Niño. The delay in the opening of the next milling season will place the country’s sugar supply situation in a precarious position. 

SRA has repeatedly assured that there will be enough sugar supply in the country. We have imported 150,000 mt. and we are set to import an additional 100,000 mt. plus another 50,000 mt. if necessary, to ensure sufficient supply. 

Sugar supply and domestic retail prices should not be problem. Though the domestic stock balance is low, we have the importation to beef up domestic supply. And we are only talking about the legitimate importation. 

Cane Points have learned that smuggled sugar recently made a comeback in Cebu. While smuggled sugar used to enter the country from Thailand in bags and in its refined form, smuggled sugar which is proliferating in the Cebu market comes in bulk, containerized and in its raw form. 

Even local sugar traders are crying foul. They can not sell the sugar which they bought at a relatively high price during the last few weeks of the milling season because the market is flooded with cheap raw sugar from Thailand.  

Legitimate importers are also worried that, when their imported sugar arrives, it will no longer have a market because of the unbridled entry of smuggled sugar in the country. 

Sugar producers are alarmed. If this nefarious activity continues, then prices will surely tumble at the start of the next milling season. Their canes have been battered badly enough by El Niño, by the high cost of fuel and farm inputs and by the expected lower yield. Will they still have to suffer from low sugar prices this coming crop year? 

What is the Bureau of Customs doing about this problem? It appears that, aside from press releases of apprehensions of small fries, the BoC has done nothing to curb smuggling.  

President Noynoy, you promised to stamp out graft and corruption. You need not look far where to begin.

 

(For reactions and suggestions, email bbacaoco@yahoo.com.)