Local sugarcane industry stakeholders are urging Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to immediately appoint a new head for the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), which formulates laws and policies at the start of every cropping season.
“At present, we are in a status quo. We can’t even draft a new sugar policy, which is crucial when programming our production and allocations,” a high-ranking SRA official said, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal.
Besides the agency not having a formal head, the official added that the industry remains in limbo because Piñol has yet to appoint members of the sugar board with only less than a month before the start of the new cropping season in September.
A sugar crop year in the Philippines starts in September and ends in August.
The official said the lack of a successor to former administrator Ma. Regina Bautista-Martin had affected the crafting of new sugar policies.
The country’s sugarcane industry is emerging from a challenging year with production falling short of targets because of El Nino. This resulted in tightness in domestic supply, forcing the government to allow importation of sugar to meet domestic requirements and replace its export commitment to the United States.
“The Secretary (Piñol) will have to understand the urgency of appointing a new SRA board, specially after a very challenging cropping season with dwindling farm areas and severe weather conditions brought about by the El Niño phenomenon,” the official said.
“This year, we are facing La Niña and we need to come up with laws that would guide our stakeholders on what the Duterte administration intends to do for the industry,” he added.
Herminigildo Serafica of Ormoc City (Leyte) and Marlon Gamboa of Pampanga are among the names being floated to become the new head of the SRA, another sugar industry insider said.
“Between the two, Serafica has broader experience in the sugar industry. Gamboa, on the other hand, operates a small sugarcane farm in Nothern Luzon, but is well-known as a financier among small players in the region,” the official said in a chance interview.
Serafica of the United Sugar Producers Federation (Unifed) is also the president of Leyte Cane Planters Association, and vice chairman of the Philippine Sugar Research Institute (Philsurin).
Piñol on Tuesday confirmed that he had recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte the appointment of Serafica, as well as other two men, as the next chief of the SRA.
If Duterte approves the appointment of Serafica and Gamboa, it will be the first time the SRA will be led by someone outside Negros Island.
As of June 24, the country’s sugar production was pegged at 2.236 million metric tons, exceeding production guidance of 2.134 million MT for crop year 2015-2016. Output, however, was down by 3.5 percent from 2.317 million MT last cropping season.
Raw sugar stocks reached 466,271 MT at the end of the current cropping season, from 322,650 MT; while refined sugar inventory was at 7.62 million 50-kilo bags from 6.07 million bags in last cropping season.
Rosemarie Gumera, SRA policy and planning manager, said they expect better sugar production this year with ample rainfall in major sugar-producing regions as a result of La Niña.