Producers buck plan to allow more sugar imports

Gilbert Bayoran - The Philippine Star
Producers buck plan to allow more sugar imports
Workers repack different types of sugar at a store in Visayas Avenue Wet and Dry Public Market in Quezon City on February 16, 2023.
Workers repack different types of sugar at a store in Visayas Avenue Wet and Dry Public Market in Quezon City on February 16, 2023. STAR / Jesse Bustos

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines — The Sugar Council, composed of three sugarcane producers’ federations in the country, has expressed its vehement opposition to the proposal of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to address low millgate prices of sugar, by “allowing traders to import even more sugar.”

In a statement, the Sugar Council said that its objection stemmed from popular understanding among sugarcane farmers that sugar importation caused the low millgate prices in the first place.

“Even as we all agree on the need for timely and appropriate intervention at this time, we feel that your proposed traders program is inopportune. The prevailing perception of farmers that millgate prices have dropped because of over-importation and predatory pricing puts in serious question any program that suggests even more trader intervention and importation. Therefore, to insist on it would be adding insult to injury,” the council said in its letter to SRA administrator Pablo Luis Azcona.

“As leaders of our federations, we are expected to find solutions to the problems, to rise from setbacks and not to get stuck in them. Suggesting importation to solve a problem caused by over-importation is getting stuck… Two wrongs and don’t make a right,” it added.

The Sugar Council – a coalition of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations Inc. (CONFED), National Federation of Sugarcane Planters Inc. (NFSP) and Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers Inc. (PANAYFED) – said it accounts for more than 66 percent of sugar produced by affiliated sugar producer association all over the country.

“We express clear, unequivocal objection to more sugar importation. It is not as if there is no better alternative, because there is, and it has been on the table since early this year,” CONFED president Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr. asserted, referring to the government intervention plan, which the Sugar Council supports.

Valderrama recalled that the Sugar Council last month proposed a government intervention solution to Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr., who ordered the SRA to conduct a technical working group meeting to iron out the details.

Instead of creating a TWG, Valderrama said that “the SRA pushed a new plan, involving traders again, and importation again.”

The Sugar Council considers the two proposals – government intervention against more sugar importation – “diametrically opposed.”

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