Bacolod City – The importation of 450,000 metric tons of refined sugar is ill-timed, Save the Sugar Industry Movement (SAVE-SIM) lead convenor Wennie Sancho said.
Sancho said it is the stand of SAVE-SIM that the importation should have been done after the end of the milling season, with the full acceptance of the sugar producers, as well as other stakeholders in the industry.
Amidst the prevailing economic circumstances with an inflation of 8.7 percent wherein fertilizer and fuel cost are soaring, sugar importation of such quantity and allocation is prone to price drop and that the planters will not take this issue sitting down. The workers and sugar farmers will stand up to unite to defend their means of livelihood, he said.
Sancho said there were allegations that some major stakeholders in the sugar industry, who are supporting the 450,000 MT sugar importation, are also acting on the interests of the sugar traders who are profiting much from this lucrative business at the expense of the small farmers and workers in the sugar industry.
How much is the profit of a sugar trader per bag? If multiplied by thousands of metric tons of imported sugar, traders will be raking in millions of pesos. No wonder why they can afford to shell out exorbitant amounts to “facilitators.” Indeed, sugar importation of such volume would be a heyday for sugar traders, let alone the unscrupulous, he said.
Corollary to these allegations, was a statement issued by a prominent sugar planter who blamed the greed of some sugar traders which triggered the high prices of sugar in the market, noting that traders are hoarding sugar to manipulate the market “to make it appear that there is a shortage,” Sancho said.
With that statement from the horses’ mouth, sugar shortage is artificial, which is the result of sugar market abuse. If the same self-serving greed will serve as the motivation of those who are supporting the 450,000 MT sugar importation, the sugar industry will be in peril, he said.
Sancho said sugar importation will not result to the greatest good of the greatest number of people. The winners in this sugar import liberalization scheme are the chosen few who were blessed by the powers-that-be and the compradors with connections, influential intermediaries in the sugar business affairs.
SAVE-SIM cannot remain silent in the midst of this impending economic disaster, he said adding “We must fight.”
“Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, in his privilege speech last year, said that there are government officials who are acting as ‘facilitators’ in the importation of sugar and are receiving P100 per bag of sugar,” Sancho said.
How true is it that there are government officials who will be receiving P900 million from the 450,000 MT sugar importation and that only selected traders are allowed to import sugar? He asked.
Sancho said that if this happens, there will be malice and suspicion on these government officials who are responsible for selecting traders who will be allowed to import.
“If the traders can afford to give bribe money worth P900 million from the 450,00 MT sugar importation, we can surmise that they are earning billions in profit on sugar importation.”
The sugar importation program of the government should be inclusive. The major stakeholders should participate in the importation program rather than just a select few which will be to the prejudice of the sugar industry and the economy in general, he said.
“SAVE-SIM strongly adheres to the principle that sugar importation should be made available equitably to benefit the sari-sari stores, wet markets, groceries and supermarkets. These are the vulnerable sectors of our society that are principally affected by the price of sugar, Sancho added. (Chrysee Semillano via The Visayan Daily Star (TVDS), photo courtesy of TVDS)