Bacolod City ?Two of the biggest sugar mills in Negros Occidental have decided to stop operations because it is no longer economically viable to mill due to the low volume of sugar cane up for harvest.
The Central Azucarera de La Carlota will stop mill operations on March 29 while the Binalbagan-Isabela Sugar Company (Biscom) would cease milling on April 1, according to Luis Tongoy, the planters' representative on the Sugar Board.
The La Carlota and Biscom mills produce about 6.5 million bags or 325,000 metric tons of sugar annually, he said.
National Federation of Sugarcane Planters president Enrique Rojas and United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines president Manuel Lamata said that this development proved what they predicted from the start.
Rojas and Lamata earlier said that the production would be lower than expected and that the dead season would start early.
Biscom produced 3.8 million bags last year but its production was down by 500,000 bags or 12 percent this year, Tongoy added.
La Carlota produced about 3.6 million bags of sugar last year compared to only 3.2 million bags this year, about 10-percent drop, he added.
The Victorias Milling Co. also milled 75,000 tons of cane last week, which was below its normal volume of about 90,000 tons of cane, Tongoy said.
He attributed the decision of two sugar millers to stop operations earlier than their usual practice because of the increased crushing capacity of the two mills and the drop in cane production rbought on by continuous rain in Negros Occidental.
The increased crushing capacity enables the mill to process more volume of sugar cane, completing their processing at a shorter period.
Tongoy noted that the industry already knew that the La Carlota mill would close early but he had expected Biscom to operate until mid-April or the Holy Week.
The dead season, which refers to the time when there is no work in the farm, usually starts in June and lasts for three months but this year, it could last for five months, sugar industry leaders said.
But Lamata said the early closure of the two mills meant the dead season in the sugar industry could last six months.
Meanwhile, the mill gate sugar bidding slightly improved Wednesday but the price was still below what the industry was looking for, Lamata and Rojas said.
The bidding of B (domestic) sugar was at P1,045 per 50-kilogram bag (Lkg) at some mills.
Lamata and Rojas also said that the mill gate prices should improve with the two mills closing early and the drop in production this crop year projected to be below the 2.050 million metric tons estimated by the Sugar Regulatory Administration. /Inquirer