SRA advises farmers to prepare vs El Niño

Sugar Regulatory Administration chief Ma. Regina Martin urged sugar farmers and industry stakeholders to prepare for the onslaught of El Niño, which is forecast to intensify before the end of this year and last until June of 2016.

“Sugarcane is a very resilient crop, just like the Filipino people. Ask the old people who’ve had years of growing sugarcane, the sugarcane love the sun, however, we still have to be prepared,” said Martin during a recent briefing with stakeholders and a planning workshop held recently.

The weather bureau issued its initial El Niño advisory on March 11, 2015, saying the dry spell had started resulting in below normal rainfall over most areas in the Philippines.

Martin stressed El Niño phenomenon would after affect the next cropping season. The dry spell will cause poor germination of the plant cane and lower stool survival for the ratoon cane in the absence of irrigation.

Insufficient soil moisture will also decrease tillering capacity and retard stalk elongation, all resulting in lower cane and sugar production.

The canes established for early planting in October and November of 2014 for crop year 2015 to 2016 reeled from the dry spell at the start of 2015, with poor tillering and leaf drying.

“More affected were those in the mid- and late planting with poor germination and tillering. The effect for all cane plants was evident with the poor stalk growth as shown from the shorter internodes,” Martin said.

Sugarcane farms in Tarlac and Cavite provinces this month have already felt the dry spell, while those in Pampanga, Batangas, Iloilo and Cagayan will have dry conditions. Isabela province is already experiencing drought.

By December 2015, the whole of Visayas will experience dry spell while Iloilo will have drought. Batangas, Cagayan, Camarines Sur, and the Cotabato and Davao proinvces will be experiencing dry spell, while Bukidnon will be under dry condition.

Martin said SRA had been coordinating with concerned government agencies for for cloud seeding and irrigation.

The sugar regulator in August issued a directive allotting 100 percent of Philippine sugar production for crop year 2015 to 2016 to the domestic market because of El Niño.

“Due to the unfavorable weather conditions and reduction of sugarcane areas, the total raw sugar production for crop year 2015 to 2016 is estimated at 2.27 million metric tons,” administrator Martin said.

Martin said the sugar order would be effective beginning September 1.

“The SRA shall undertake periodic assessment of the crop year 2015-2016 sugar production and withdrawal trend and on the basis of such assessment, it may from time to time adjust the percentage distribution of the different classes of sugar as provided in this sugar order... or take necessary action to address the situation,” Martin said.

The Philippines is one of the preferred countries which have a regular US sugar quota of 138,827 metric tons.

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