Wednesday, February 28Food Security Matters

10 Reasons Why You Should Not Farm Sugarcane

The Philippines is one of the biggest sugar-producing countries in South East Asia but, did you know that sugar sugarcane farming has a lot of disadvantages? In this article, I will explain why you should not farm sugarcane and plant other cash crops instead.

1. Low Yield

Sugarcane farming in the Philippines is characterized by a notably low yield per hectare, which poses significant challenges to the agricultural industry. This staple crop, primarily grown for sugar production, endures a prolonged growth cycle and typically yields only once annually. The extended maturation period, often 9 to 11 months, necessitates patience and careful cultivation.

sugarcane farming
Workers cutting sugarcane in the Philippines

Furthermore, the seasonal nature of harvests presents logistical and financial challenges for farmers, as they must effectively manage resources and income throughout the year.

The average sugarcane yield per hectare in the Philippines is 60 tons per hectare. This is around P108,000 based on P1,800 LKG (1 LKG = 50 Kg. bag of sugar). This only leaves a sugarcane farmer with a net profit of around P50,000 per hectare per year which is extremely low compared to other crops like rice, corn, peanuts, and vegetables that can be harvested multiple times a year.

2. Massive Waste of Land

Because of its low yield, planting sugarcane is a massive waste of land. A half hectare of eggplant can net more than P500,000 in just one planting cycle, the same can be said with Ampalaya, cabbage, and other vegetables while demanding lower labor costs and fertilizer.

3. You Can’t Do Retail

Unlike other crops you can sell anywhere to anyone, sugarcane needs processing to turn into sugar. Unfortunately, it’s the planter’s associations that sell the sugar. If you want to eat sugar from your produce, you must pay for it.

4. You Don’t Control the Price

Yes, again, it’s the planter’s association and the mill who control the price because they are the ones buying your sugarcane. Sugar planters have no say on whatever the price of the sugarcane is. Once your sugarcane leaves your farm and is brought to the mill, you lose control and just wait for whatever the price of the sugar is.

5. You Can’t Consume Your Produce

As mentioned above, it’s the association that buys and sells your sugar on a wholesale basis. You won’t even have any chance to see your sugar (at least in Negros Occidental where I grow-up). If you want to eat sugar, buy from dealers and traders. You can’t even take home your molasses.

6. Environmental Disaster

Sugarcane fields are being burned after the harvest. This is necessary because if the presence of dried leaves and tops could hinder the next cultivation process. Burning emits large amounts of greenhouse gasses. Without burning, the field will attract several insects including destructive beetles.

7. Can’t Provide Real Jobs

Because of its low yield, sugarcane farms can’t produce jobs that pay even the minimum wage. Sugarcane workers are one of the most exploited workers and less paid especially in Negros Occidental. This leads to the next reason below.

8. Promotes Slavery

If you think slavery has long gone in the Philippines, try to work in any sugarcane fields in Negros under the wealthy Hacienderos. This is the main reason why Negros Occidental has many rich people while there are also millions of people living below the poverty line.

Sugarcane planters don’t pay minimum wage. There is a plantation of around 16 hectares in my neighborhood and the owner employs only one person – the caretaker. As of 2023, that person is paid P8,000 per month. Other workers work on seasonal basis without any government-mandated benefits.

Meanwhile, a 4-hectare-integrated farm nearby employs at least 16 regular workers who enjoy minimum wage with full government-mandated benefits. The farm raises poultry, swine, a small honey bee farm, and planting vegetables.

9. High Risk During Summer Season

Sugarcane farmers can’t sleep at night during dry season when the sugarcane are nearing harvesting time because it is prone to burning. In Negros Occidental, no sugar mill will accept your cane if it is burned and already past three days.

10. NPA is Knocking on Your Door for Revolutionary Tax

Get ready to “pay revolutionary tax” when you farm sugarcane especially if it is more than 10 hectares. This is the reason why the New People’s Army (NPA) exists. If you don’t want to pay then prepare yourself as these social cancers are always ready to burn your sugarcane.

Instead of farming sugarcane, the government should encourage people to plant other crops like corn, rice, peanuts, bananas, pineapples, and other high-value crops. Importing sugarcane is cheaper while using the land for other useful crops that can provide real jobs.

A 5-hectare sugarcane plantation can’t support a family of 5 with a college student. This is the reality.

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