Sugar farmers blame government for industry’s woes
- by Rommel Ynion () - March 28, 2001 - 12:00am
A sugar farmers group has scored the government for crafting policies inimical to the growth of the industry which they claimed has been unable to compete not only with its neighbors in Asia, but with other countries as well.

Sugar farmers blamed the lethargic performance of the industry on the government’s lack of awareness of its macro-economic needs not only to sustain its marketability at home but also to compete abroad.

"There has been a historical neglect by government of the sugar industry. Now is the time to correct this neglect," said Bernardo Trebol, president of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations (Confed).

Confed was one of the organizations that banded together recently in an effort to map out the blueprint for the sugar industry’s growth and modernization. Among these groups are the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP), Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (Panayfed), and United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines (Unifed).

One of the issues the groups tackled was globalization which, they said, should not mistaken for the freedom to lower tariff rates at will, in the process crippling the sugar industry’s ability to compete globally.

"We should only drop tariffs if and when other countries do the same and at a rate no less favorable than that of other countries. We cannot compete with them because these countries continue to subsidize their farmers," said NFSP president Enrique Roxas.

Roxas added that in five years, the Philippines reduced its sugar tariffs dramatically, lower than those of the United States, European Union, and Japan.

"In the GATT proposed tariff schedule on imported sugar, the Philippine government committed the lowest bound rate and the largest percentage reduction among its comparable sugar-producing competitors," he said.

Sugar farmers also blamed government’s "reckless" implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) on sugar lands whose fragmentation into small landholdings has undermined the marketability of the business.

They lamented that the implementation of the land reform program has created a climate of uncertainty, stifling the cash flow into the sugar industry which has been dependent on loans to sustain its productivity.

Victor Facultad, Panayfed president, stressed that the government should not ignore the ill-effects of such a policy "which should be changed to restore the marketability of sugar lands."

BERNARDO TREBOL COMPREHENSIVE AGRARIAN REFORM PROGRAM CONFEDERATION OF SUGAR PRODUCERS ASSOCIATIONS ENRIQUE ROXAS EUROPEAN UNION NATIONAL FEDERATION OF SUGARCANE PLANTERS PANAY FEDERATION OF SUGARCANE FARMERS PANAYFED SUGAR UNITED STATES
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