BACOLOD City – Sugar stakeholders in Negros Occidental got support from the Department of Agriculture (DA) Region 6 amid the challenges confronting the local industry.
The government is planning to deregulate the sugar importation policy in the county, a move that sugar leaders in the province have decried.
In a summit held on Jan. 31, DA regional director Remelyn Recoter said they can offer “soft and hard support” for sugar farmers should the proposed measure pushes through.
Among the support the DA can give sugar farmers are seeds, planting materials, training and research, farm mechanization, farm-to-market roads, and other farm infrastructures, according to Recoter.
These can be used for the planned crop diversification in Negros Occidental. During the summit, a five-year road map was crafted for this.
The province plans to reduce by 30,000 hectares its total land area of about 189,000 hectares devoted to sugarcane and diversify them with other crops – such as yellow corn, rice, high-value crops (HVCs), and tropical fruits.
Rafael Coscolluela – provincial consultant on investment promotions, export and trade development – said the biggest area for diversification is intended for yellow corn at 15,000 hectares.
Yellow corn is needed for the livestock and poultry sector of the province.
The remaining 15,000 hectares will be divided equally for rice, HVCs and tropical fruits.
Coscoluella said 30,000-hectare conversion area is just a target and the provincial government can still be ambitious if there is potential for other crops.
“Ultimately, the deciding factor is profitability. So we will go where there is higher profit,” he said.
Meanwhile, Recoter said diversification would not mean “forgetting” the sugar industry, which is considered the lifeblood of the province, the country’s top sugar producer.
Negros Occidental will continue to be a sugar-producing province, she stressed. (With a report from PNA/PN)