The congressman who sees things differently and solves old problems with new ways of thinking has one prescription for the sugar industry to survive: Forget about sugar.
That may seem odd to people, but makes plenty of sense on closer look. “Forget about sugar” vsimply means we refocus on what exactly is our product: sugarcane, not sugar, Rep. Albee Benitez said.
It is the first time on record that somebody has stood up and said that but with 2015 some 24 months away, that may yet be the single most important advise ever given to the industry upon which Negros relies.
We need to unfocus on sugar, he adds, so we will all be conscious that there are other products we can bring to the market aside from it. He cites ethanol and power as two products that can also be produced using sugarcane. Ethanol, he says, has a market demand mandated by the law, while power is something that will always be needed, making them sustainable. He said San Carlos, which has gone into ethanol, is expanding and the product is “now paying off.”
Albee said diversification to other crops will take a lifetime while pushing other products from sugarcane will need only the mills to adapt to the times.
For the longest time, farmers, planters and millers have all focused on sugar, sugar, sugar making the industry market dependent. This is why, he added, the bill he authored in congress is called the Sugarcane Act, not just Sugar Act, he added.
“What if we make sugar only the by product? he asked. Couldn’t sugarcane prices be high while those of sugar, low?” he asked
Coming from a sugarcane producing family, Albee says he owes a lot to the industry and will do everything for it especially with the impact of 2015, when tariffs on sugar are eliminated. It has taken him a year to come up with the Sugarcane Act bill, he adds, as it went back and forth the various stakeholders of the industry
“Change will come, “ he said, “If you do not ride that change, you will be left behind. The environment will change in 2015 so we must adapt.”*