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Batangas sugar mill closure curbs province’s cane processing capacity

THE closure of Central Azucarera Don Pedro, Inc. (CADPI) in Nasugbu, Batangas, has left the province’s planters with limited facilities to mill about 15,000 tons of sugarcane, a farmers’ cooperative said.

In a radio interview, Pablito Paciona, a director with the Saprocom Multi-Purpose Cooperative, said the decision to close the mill permanently will leave them with nowhere to mill their harvest in the last two months of milling season.

“In the remaining two months, we can mill about 50,000 tons, but 15,000 tons will be left in the fields,” he said.

According to Mr. Paciona, the cooperative has about 600 members who can turn to other mills, which cannot take up their entire harvest.

The sugar central is a unit of Roxas Holdings, Inc. In late 2022, it announced plans to shut down permanently, citing the challenging operating environment in Batangas, including old equipment and the lack of cane being brought in for milling.

Mills in Balayan, Batangas, run by Universal Robina Corp. and Progreen Agricorp, Inc., can only absorb some of the harvest, Mr. Paciona said, noting their daily capacity of 4,000 tons and 2,000 tons, respectively. CADPI used to mill 10,000-13,000 tons a day.

Mr. Paciona said the cooperative borrowed P40 million from Land Bank of the Philippines which it was hoping to pay down using income from milled cane.

Pablo Luis S. Azcona, board member and planter’s representative at the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), said in an interview that alternative milling services can be provided by centrals in Tarlac and Negros, though with some logistical difficulty and added cost.

“What we are doing in SRA is trying to find a solution to make sure that their sugarcane will be milled because this is also very important for the national supply situation,” he said.

He added that the SRA will seek to prevent planters from growing other crops in order not to disrupt the sugar supply. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera

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