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Monday, April 15, 2024

Bacolod: Sugar industry shrinks due to land conversion, says SRA

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Sugar Regulatory Administrator Pablo Luis Azcona blamed land conversion as a key factor in the decrease in sugar production areas.

During a recent press conference at the SRA office, Azcona expressed understanding for landowners selling their sugar farmlands, given the high market prices for the land.

“For example, if you have 100,000 hectares and you receive an offer of P5 million per hectare, who wouldn’t sell? The logic is simple: you gain the profit in a lump sum. In a good year, you may be fortunate to earn between P50,000 to P100,000 per hectare. But if you sell your farmland for P5 million or P10 million per hectare, that’s equivalent to 50 to 100 years of profit,” he said.

Azcona pointed out the pressures of urban expansion, noting, “Our ongoing struggle is with the growth of our city; as it expands, it consumes farmland.”

He expressed concern that the farmlands being sold are prime locations, with attributes such as being flat, irrigated, and well-established for sugar cultivation.

“Our production continues to decline,” Azcona observed.

He cited the transformation of areas leading to Bacolod-Silay airport, once planted with sugar, now repurposed for urban development.

In response to these challenges, Azcona mentioned the government’s efforts to boost research on high-yielding crop varieties.

“We’ve noticed we fall short compared to other countries in terms of production per hectare.”

Azcona outlined the SRA’s current initiatives, including 120,000 hectares of nursery farms provided to cooperatives and farmers. These nurseries, supported by SRA funding of P5,000 per hectare for six months, aim to enhance production.

Additionally, he mentioned SRA’s allocation of P66 million for measures to mitigate the effects of El Niño, which has adversely affected sugar farms.

He described SRA’s release of irrigation equipment for 100 hectares, the construction of shallow wells, and the installation of automated weather stations equipped with moisture sensors in farm areas.

Regarding cloud seeding, Azcona indicated that SRA is considering it, although suitable clouds for the procedure have yet to be observed.

(Dolly Yasa via The Daily Guardian (TDG))

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