DOT cites the sugar industry as a ‘soft’ part of PH’s roadmap to recover from the pandemic

A farmer harvests sugar cane. (Filipina Daily Inquirer file photo)

BACOLOD CITY – Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat has identified the sugar industry as a “soft” part of the country’s path to recovering from COVID-19.

Speaking at the 67th Annual Virtual National Convention of the Association of Sugar Technologists of the Philippines on Wednesday, Puyat said there are many ways for the sugar industry and the tourism industry to merge to create new offers and sources of income.

“Let’s harness the heritage and industrial capacities of our sugar-producing regions to develop a strong sense of belonging, each with its own story and unique sites,” she said.

The Philippine sugar industry contributes significantly to the country’s gross domestic product, with no less than 70 billion pesos per year.

With 23.3 million metric tons of cane grown on about 398,478 hectares of farmland in 17 provinces, Puyat said about 630,000 farmers depend on the industry for their livelihood and income.

“The pandemic has not affected the sugar industry in Negros. In fact, at the end of 2020, the sugar industry was around 50% more than the previous crop year in terms of gross tonnes of cane crushed, as sugar cane workers were allowed to continue working during the season. pandemic, ”she said.

For Negros Occidental, including Bacolod City, the drop in tourist arrivals was 78.22%. From 1.5 million tourists in 2019, there were only 345,000 tourists in 2020. Tourism revenue also declined, from 30.2 billion pesos in 2019 to just 6.5 billion pesos in the year. last.

“Diversification into tourism would provide an alternative source of income, and sugar stakeholders could consider turning part of their plantations into an agricultural tourism destination to create new tourism products that appeal to pandemic and post-pandemic travelers,” he said. declared Puyat.

She said that any visit to a sugarcane plantation will necessarily touch on history and highlight its agricultural and industrial aspects. A tour can show the journey of sugar production from harvesting sugar cane to crushing, grinding and refining.

Puyat said sugar-producing countries have already started offering tours of sugar estates, telling the story of the importance of sugar in the founding of the nation, its dark history of slavery and the operation of a factory. modern sugar bowl.

“Certainly our country has its own unique and fascinating sugar stories that can come to life in various ways,” she added.

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Rachel J. Bradford