Biggest Muscovado Sugar Maker Is in Sultan Kudarat
Cornelio Jr. and Janeth Castaneda had all the reasons to be happy at the last International Food Exhibition held at the World Trade Center. The product they exhibited, organic muscavado sugar, was in great demand not only in the local market but also abroad.
Cornelio, who is the president of the Sultan Kudarat Muscovado Farmers and Millers Corporation, said they have a most pleasant problem. There is a huge demand for organic muscovado sugar which they couldn’t possibly supply by themselves and by other producers within a short time. Which means that they don’t have to worry about lowering their price so they can dispose of their produce. In fact, Comelio said he had just dismissed the ploy of a trader who said he would just buy his supply from Northern Luzon if could not be given a discount.
Recently, before they participated in the IFEX, Cornelio was invited in Manila to a teleconference with muscovado buyers from Korea and Japan. He was really overwhelmed by the demand abroad. The Korean buyer said he would like to import 600 tons monthly. The Japanese buyer, on the other hand, also wanted the same quantity.
Cornelio said they are about the biggest producer of muscovado sugar in the country today but they could not possibly meet all the demand in the foreseeable future. His corporation which was formed only last year is now producing 100 to 200 tons a month. Anyway, they will have to expand their area devoted to sugarcane. Production is year round, he said. The corporation has a membership of 380 farmers and millers. The area planted to sugarcane totals 1,700 hectares in the towns of President Quirino and Tacurong in the province of Sultan Kudarat. Their area has been designated by the government as OTOP or One Town One Product, which means that muscovado is the main commercial product in their locality.
As a business, growing sugarcane and producing muscovado sugar is profitable, according to Cornelio. Even the people who don’t have land but who are involved in planting sugarcane and in cooking muscovado are making good money. He said they have a unique system of sharing among the workers, the landowners and the millers.
If the landowner can’t do the planting on his own, he usually gets groups of workers to help him. One family with land may employ one or more groups of workers. The worker’s group could be a husband and wife team who do the planting without any compensation, except that they are given food. The landowner, on the other hand, spends for land preparation, the planting materials and other inputs.
When the crop is ready for harvest about a year later, the workers will also do the harvesting as well as the hauling of the canes to the sugar mill. They usually haul the canes by cart drawn by an ox or carabao. (There are 11 modern sugar mills and 12 traditional mills in President Quirino and Tacurong).
The sugar mills are mechanized. It is also there where the workers would cook muscovado sugar in traditional vats or “kawa” using dried bagasse as fuel. Cornelio explained that about 650 kilos of sugarcane will produce enough juice to fill up one vat which will normally yield 80 kilos of muscovado. Of this, 20 kilos will go to the sugar mill while 30 kilos will each go to the land owner and the workers.
Cornelio said that in one day, the husband and wife could cook three vats, which means they get a share of 90 kilos worth P2,700. In one week, they usually cook for two days, hence their weekly share of muscovado sugar could be worth P5,400 or P21,600 a month. That’s not a bad gross income in the province. There is no problem selling their share at P30 a kilo. One buyer from Manila alone buys 40 to 60 tons a month which he distributes to various outlets in the city.
The big demand for muscovado sugar could be attributed in part to the fact that health conscious consumers are demanding the use of organic food products. So-called organic breads and pastries are increasingly becoming popular in foreign countries and the manufacturers are required to use muscovado sugar. Importers of banana chips from other countries are also telling Philippine manufacturers of banana chips to use muscovado sugar.
Cornelio revealed that muscovado sugar can also take the place of vetsin in enhancing the flavor of vegetable dishes. It is also claimed to be excellent for marinating fish and meat.
Cornelio is an agriculture graduate who majored in soils at the University of Southern Mindanao. He has always farmed after graduation, and now he is president of a most promising corporation. His wife who has been most helpful to him is the executive secretary of the mayor in President Quirino town. Cornelio can be contacted at +63917-6-129068.