Bolivia – Drought lowers 2015/16 sugar output

The 2015/16 sugar output in Bolivia is forecast at 8.9 mln quintals (409,000 tonnes). The drought affected output is lower than previous years, according to local press reports. Average cane yields dropped to 32.5 tonnes per ha from 50 tonnes in a normal season.

According to informed sources overall production of the five Cruceño factories (Unagro, Guabira, La Bélgica, San Aurelio and Aguaí) is around 7.961 million quintals of sugar. The estimated production includes Aguaí mill, the only Bolivian mill that has not finished operation for this season yet.

The Unagro mill produced 2.560 mln quintals compared with 3.6 mln originally planned. Its ethanol production was 12 mln litres. Guabirá crushed 1.670 mln tonnes of cane into 2.512 mln quintals of sugar against a target of 3.6 mln. Its ethanol production fell to 48 mln litres against a target of 69 mln and last year’s result of 61 mln.

San Aurelio produced 1.123 mln quintals, La Bélgica 766,000 and Aguaí is expected to manufacture 1 mln quintals. Originally Aguaí had planned to produce 1.5 mln quintals against 300,000 in 2015. Ethanol production was to reach 23 mln litres against 40 mln in 2015 and 52 mln in 2013.

Bermejo sugar mill in the south of the country will produce 800,000 quintals and newcomer Empresa Azucarera San Buenaventura (Easba) crushed 78,000 tonnes of cane into 140,000 quintals of sugar and one million litres of ethanol during a campaign which lasted only 22 days. The plant was designed to process between 7,000 and 8,500 tonnes of cane per day, and produce 1.2 mln quintals of sugar, a goal that is expected to be reached by 2021.

“While productivity has fallen 40%, resulting in total production lower than last year, there will be no problem of shortage of sugar in the domestic market,” said Avelino Gutiérrez, president at the association of sugarcane producers in Santa Cruz region. All mills have closed for the harvest – Guabirá, Unagro, La Bélgica, San Aurelio – except for Aguaí, which will continue operations until the end of the month or most likely until the first week of October, Gutiérrez said.

Sugar production in Bolivia totalled 11.4 mln quintals in 2012, 10.8 mln in 2013, and 9.4 mln in 2014.

Gutierréz said sugarcane producers expect the sector to be able to apply for the $180 mln credit fund with 0% interest, recently announced by the federal government. “Almost all cane producers have been affected by drought, therefore we must be considered within this credit program,” he said.

The 2016 sugarcane season in most of the mills in Bolivia lasted about three months, in comparison with up to six months in previous years due to lower production, according to Armando Terceros, director at Bolivia’s agribusiness statistic centre OTAI.

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