• PH eyes Brazil sugar technology

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    Manila is considering acquiring sugar technology developed in Brazil to make local sugarcane farmers more competitive with the advent of the Asean free trade agreement, the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said on Tuesday.

    With the looming threat of a shrinking surplus of the sweetener in the world market, the Philippine sugar industry could learn a great deal from its Brazilian counterparts in terms of improving productivity and efficiency through extensive investment, both by the government and the private sector, toward the development of new technologies, SRA Administrator Ma. Regina Bautista-Martin said.

    “It is not hard to imagine Brazil setting the pace for sugar and ethanol in the world market regardless of its size,” Martin said after returning from an official trip to the South American country.

    Martin said she has requested the Brazilian government cooperation on the exchange of technology on fermentation and yeast isolation, methodology and equipment design for field trash recovery system, access to equipment design for mill power generation, impact assessment models on bioenergy and biofuels, and varietal cooperation on good ratooning, climate resilient, high yielding varieties of sugarcane.

    “With our visit to the different research centers, we were able to directly and personally convey our interest of acquiring specific cane varieties they have developed which are suitable to our farms. Their initial response was very positive,” she said.

    One of the varieties developed by Brazil thru the Sao Paulo Institute of Research (IAC) is the Giant Sugarcane (Energy Cane) measuring about 6 – 8 meters tall, with high fiber content for power generation.

    The SRA chief also noted that not only are Brazil’s research agencies open to varietal exchange, but they, specifically the Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (EMBRAPA), are willing to give technical training to people from the Philippines on pure and applied research on agriculture.

    Rosemarie Gumera, SRA manager for Planning and Policy, said Brazil was able to boost its sugar production and productivity despite the absence of significant increase in sugarcane areas since the 1960s.

    “During the visit with the different research centers, it dawned upon us that Brazil has a very strong emphasis on research,” Gumera said.

    The official said that the SRA will continue with its global search for best technology in sugarcane farming and product development to improve the global competitiveness of the country’s sugarcane industry.

    Meanwhile, Martin said that it is necessary for the government to provide an enabling environment to make sugarcane and sugar production viable as the reduction of ASEAN tariff to 5 percent will take effect in less than a year.

    The SRA chief, citing analysis of the current sugar situation, also noted the “imminent fact” that the surplus of sugar in the world market is now smaller than earlier anticipated.

    Martin said that the forecast is that the surplus regime may end by year 2016, bringing the global stock into a balance. And if no additional capacity is installed within the next three years, world sugar supply will drop to a deficit.

    “From a high of 6 million metric tons, it is now expected to be only 2 to 4 million metric tons due to relatively flat production because of the closure of mills in Brazil — 32 mills so far,” she said.

    “Our basic economic model of supply and demand will tell us that a deficit will tend to buoy up prices,” she added.

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