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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Bacolod: Sugar Council opposes SRA plans to allow more imports

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

In a statement, the Sugar Council said 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 Sugar Regulatory 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 don’t make a right, it said.

The Sugar Council, a coalition of 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 more 66 percent of sugar produced by affiliated sugar producer association all over the country.

“We expressed 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., disclosed, referring to the government intervention plan, which the Sugar Council supports.

Valderrama recalled that the Sugar Council proposed a government intervention solution to Agriculture Sec. Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. on Jan. 9, who ordered the SRA to conduct a Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting to iron out the details.

Instead of creating a TWG, he said that SRA pushed a new plan, involving traders again, and importation again.

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

“On one hand, we know very well that over-importation got us in the mess we are in today, so agreeing to more importation is suicidal. As leaders of our federations, we are expected to lead our members out of problem situations, so doing more of the same thing is not an option to us. On the other hand, government intervention is designed to fix low millgate prices without trader participation nor sugar importation. The choice is clear. And by choosing the latter, SRA will solve the problem and win the goodwill of thousands of sugarcane farmers throughout the country,” said PANAYFED President Danilo Abelita.

NFSP President Enrique Rojas questioned the SRA casting aside the plan for government intervention.

Rojas said that SRA was given P5 billion to solve the problem of low millgate prices of sugar.

“So why did the SRA suddenly turn around and propose a new plan, one that is highly contested because it calls for even more sugar importation? It is just delaying the delivery of government help,” Rojas asked.

Asking for an update on the status of government intervention plan, the Sugar Council also hopes that SRA will reconsider its position by abandoning the idea of more importation and trader participation, and, instead, instead fast-tracking implementation of the government intervention plan.

It also stands firm on the proposed P12 billion PITC (Philippine International Trading Corporation) program that offers five clear advantages, which designed to increase millgate prices and stabilize retail prices, does not involve importation nor traders, gives government more control of a distorted market, potentially provide reasonable revenues to government, and allows for the participation of the stakeholders most affected, which is the sugar producers.

(Gilbert Bayoran via The Visayan Daily Star (TVDS), photo courtesy by TVDS)

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