Sugar farms dry up on El Niño

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The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has requested the provincial government of Negros Occidental to start cloud seeding operations in the area to soften the impact of a prolonged dry spell known as the El Niño phenomenon, a senior official said on Tuesday.

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SRA Administrator Ma. Regina Bautista-Martin said the standing crops were not in danger but a drought could cause serious damage to the next cropping season.

“At present, the prolonged dry spell brought about by the El Niño phenomenon has no effect yet to the standing crops. But it will be a different story in the next cropping season,” she said in a letter to Gov. Alfredo Maranon.

Negros Occidental has 188,569.66 hectares planted with sugar cane. It supplies 60 percent of the country’s total sugar production.

SRA recommended cloud seeding over 69,582 hectares of sugar cane plantation in southern Negros; about 52,528 hectares in central Negros; and 48,798 hectares in northern Negros. The cropping season for sugar cane starts in September and ends in August of the following year.

Martin said the SRA has adjusted downward its output projection for crop year 2014-2015 due to unfavorable weather condition that has affected the plantations in the Visayas region.

“The rains at the start of the sugar milling season in September 2014 has affected the maturity of the canes,” Martin said.

Total raw sugar production for crop year 2014-2015 is now estimated at 2.465 million metric tons—slightly lower than the initial projection of 2.5 million MT, but still higher than last year’s level.

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