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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Bacolod: Sugar importation splits planters’ groups

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Bacolod City – Sugar producers appear to be divided on the issue of sugar importation, as the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) issued Sugar Order No. 6 for the importation of 440,000 metric tons of refined sugar for this year.

While the United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines (UNIFED) expressed support for the decision of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., also the concurrent Agriculture secretary, and the SRA to import 440,000 MT of refined sugar, the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations (CONFED), National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP) and Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers, on the other hand, expressed fears that it will lead to a further drop in sugar prices.

UNIFED president Manuel Lamata disclosed that the first 100,000 metric tons of imported sugar, is expected to arrive immediately, which he said is aimed at addressing the runaway retail prices of sugar.

The balance, according to Lamata, will serve as a buffer stock, to be placed under the control of SRA, with C buffer stock, to be released as needed.

He added that the sugar industry is about to finish harvesting, and he anticipates a lack of supply in two to three months, after the current season is over.

In a joint statement, NFSP president Enrique Rojas and PANAYFED president Danilo Abelita, said “We believe that the 440,000 MT volume is more than what is needed in the domestic market. This oversupply, coupled with the ill-timed arrival, of imported sugar will surely lead to further downward slide of mill gate sugar prices.”

CONFED earlier said that the 440,000 metric tons of sugar to be imported, which is scheduled for arrival earlier, may have a negative effect on current mill gate prices, as milling is still on-going.

NFSP, PANAYFED and CONFED had unanimously pushed for an importation volume of only 350,000 MT, and the arrival of the imported stocks should be after the milling season.

“With the arrival of the first tranche of 200,000 MT importation at the time when most planters are still harvesting and milling their canes, aggravated by excessive volume of importation, mill gate sugar prices will further drop,” Rojas and Abelita said, noting a drop of sugar mill gate prices by P200 to P300 per bag last week, compared to prices in the previous weeks.

The Save the Sugar Industry Movement, in a statement, called on the SRA to investigate the alleged corruption, in connection to the importation of refined sugar, in order to prevent the spillage of the sugar industry by ruthless and unscrupulous traders, in cahoots with government officials.

Rojas and Abelita also pointed out that, under Sugar Order No. 6, SRA seems to have waived its regulatory powers in favor of the Department of Agriculture.

“For instance, in the approval of import applications and the allocation of import volumes among eligible importers, the SRA’s function has become merely recommendatory, because the Department of Agriculture has the final decision on such vital importation matters. There seems to be no provision in the sugar order which ensures transparency in the approval of import applications and fairness in the allocation of importation volumes,” they emphasized.

Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson, who is also a sugar planter, said “I trust our sugar leaders, especially the SRA, who are all Negrenses.”

Lacson also stressed the importance to determine the right volume and timing of importation. But he noted that there seems to be a conflict, as to the timing of sugar importation, and when it should arrive. (Gilbert Bayoran via The Visayan Daily Star (TVDS), photo courtesy of TVDS)

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