SRA did not propose more sugar imports – group

Gilbert Bayoran - The Philippine Star
SRA did not propose more sugar imports � group
A retailer arranges packs of sugars in Pandacan, Manila on January 18, 2023.
STAR / Ernie Penaredondo

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines — The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) is not proposing more sugar importation, according to the United Sugar Producers Federation (Unifed).

“(The Sugar Council) seems bent to divide the sugar industry at the expense of sugar farmers, who are waiting for the full implementation of government intervention,” Unifed president Manuel Lamata said in a statement.

He added that the Sugar Council opposed a second program, in which traders would purchase and reserve local sugar, adding to the initial P5-billion buy-back local sugar scheme from the national government.

The Sugar Council – a coalition of three sugar federations, namely the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations (Confed), National Federation of Sugarcane Planters and Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers – earlier opposed the SRA’s proposal of allowing traders to import more sugar to address low millgate prices.

In a message to The STAR, SRA administrator Pablo Azcona denied they are planning to import more sugar.

“No such thing. The claims are libelous,” Azcona said.

Lamata maintained that the Unifed, the Asociacion de Agricultores de la Carlota y Pontevedra (AALCPI) and the Luzon Federation of Sugarcane Growers Association (Luzonfed) are supporting the government intervention as discussed with Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. and Azcona.

This intervention refers to a proposed sugar order, in which the SRA would allocate between 20 to 30 percent of quedans issued before a program takes effect.

The proposal covers the limited volume purchase of locally produced sugar for reclassification to reserve sugar to avail of allocation for the next import program. This would supposedly uplift farmgate prices to a more stable level while ensuring optimal retail prices.

Mike Hinojales, who handles one of the biggest sugar landholdings in the country, endorsed this proposal along with Unifed, AALCPI and Luzonfed.

Lamata said the Sugar Council refused to send letters asking Marcos to increase the budget of the Philippine International Trading Corp. to buy local sugar from P5 billion to P12 billion, which was discussed and formally agreed upon with Laurel and Azcona last month.

“Why refuse? You don’t want to help your farmers?” Lamata asked.

Meanwhile, Confed said they are “opposing importation right now because we have an oversupply (of refined sugar).”

“As of Jan. 14, this is the report of the SRA. The net ending stocks of our refined sugar is 528,879 metric tons, this is big considering in the same report, the current average monthly withdrawal is only 86,260 MT. If you hold that constant, the 528,879 MT will last for another six months so we don’t need importation right now,” Confed executive director Alan Gensoli said in a radio interview yesterday. — Bella Cariaso

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