Bacolod: Zubiri, Lacson back sugar importation

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photo courtesy of The Visayan Daily Star

Bacolod City – Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri and Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson aired support for government plans to import refined sugar, while farmer groups have called for a data based, transparent and consultative importation plan.

“Our production of sugar is not capable of addressing the needs of users”, Zubiri said, noting that the milling season will start September this year in Negros, while it will commences by either October or November in Bukidnon.

By this time, I think there will be a shortfall, he said, stressing also that the best person to be asked on the timing of sugar importation would be Sugar Regulatory Administration head Pablo Luis Azcona.

While it is okay with him to import 200,000 MT of refined sugar, Lacson said the timing must be right so it does not hurt the local farmers.

The concern of the sugar planters is the timing, the governor pointed out.

In a press briefing, Zubiri said “they need to import 200,000 MT to avoid price increases of Coca Cola, pandesal (bread), and other basic commodities that use sugar.”

Lacson further stressed that sugar importation should not come in when the milling season starts, so there will be a market for locally produced sugar.

Sugar planters will be okay if their sugar sells at P3,000 per 50 kilogram, he added.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. reported recently that the planned importation of 200,000 metric tons of sugar has been agreed upon, under Sugar Order (SO) 2 that was signed in March this year.

Azcona explained that SO2, or the pre-qualification of possible importers being referred to by Laurel, will stabilize the refined sugar prices to the range of P73 to P100 a kilo.

In a statement, Azcona said that SO2 will pre-qualify possible importers by buying “local farmer sugar first.”

The Department of Agriculture proposal was supported by United Sugar Producers Federation president Manuel Lamata.

“This will fill in the shortage before harvest season starts in September. Harvest this coming crop year will be delayed due to the El Niño, and when we were consulted about this matter, we approved the proposal,” Lamata said in a statement.

However, the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers Inc., and Confederation of Sugar Producers Association Inc. have called on the SRA to conduct a stakeholders’ consultation and enlighten them on the basis of the proposed sugar importation plan.

In a joint statement, NFSP president Enrique Rojas and PANAYFED president Danilo Abelita said the arrival of imported sugar at the start of the milling season will exert a downward pressure on sugar prices. (Gilbert Bayoran via The Visayan Daily Star)

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