Sugar imports plan will worsen plight of planters affected by CADPI–grp

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A GROUP of sugar industry workers warned that the proposed import program by the government would worsen the situation of planters displaced by the closure of Central Azucarera Don Pedro Inc.’s (CADPI) mill.

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) opposed the national government proposal to import as much as 450,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar, calling it “ridiculous, ineffective, and a callous” measure in the wake of the closure of CADPI’s sugar mill, where “massive” job losses are expected.

The latest sugar import proposal on the table, according to officials, is a joint recommendation by both the Palace and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA). (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/01/19/phl-keen-on-importing-450000-mt-of-sugar/)

The group proposed that the national government take over CADPI’s sugar mill to save the livelihood of Batangas sugarcane industry workers and improve the country’s output of the commodity.

UMA lamented that CADPI’s sugar mill closure was a “blow” to the livelihood of Batangas workers, particularly to small planters whose produce could no longer be accommodated by other mills.

The group claimed that CADPI can mill as much as 12,000 metric tons (MT) of sugarcane daily, allegedly three times bigger than the capacity of Universal Robina Corp. Sugar and Renewables Balayan (URC-SURE) sugar mill, the nearest to the former facility.

“Is the SRA so keen on sabotaging the sugar industry?” UMA spokesperson and National Federation of Sugar Workers President John Milton Lozande said in a recent statement.

“Domestic sugar production needs state support, not state-sponsored competition brought about by wanton importation. It can provide this through subsidies for fuel and fertilizer, as well as taking over ailing sugar mills like CADPI,” Lozande added.

UMA urged the national government to intervene in CADPI’s sugar mill closure and provide affected planters with necessary subsidies, such as fuel and fertilizer, to help them in the next cropping season.

“Fuel and fertilizer subsidies are urgent. Stopping the importation of agricultural goods we can produce ourselves is urgent. And [President] Marcos Jr.’s resignation from the [Department of Agriculture], even more so,” Lozande said.

The BusinessMirror reported last week that CADPI, a subsidiary of listed firm Roxas Holdings Inc., has decided to permanently close its sugar mill due to operational and financial challenges. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/01/16/cadpi-milling-ops-closure-has-sugar-planters-worried/)

Sinag blasts import default

In a related development, the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) aired concerns about the proposed sugar import program of the national government.

Sinag did not mince words in saying that it is the “DA” itself that causes the depression of farm-gate prices due to ill-timed importation programs.

“Without even trying, [the DA] is the reason why local producers are losing profit. Why don’t they wait for the end of the harvest and milling season of sugar?” the group said in a statement.

“The DA, it seems, is now the biggest enemy of the local producers,” the group added.

Officials have earlier disclosed that it is still ironing out the guidelines for the proposed import program. Officials also noted that they would consider the recommendations and insights of concerned sugarcane industry stakeholders.

The United Sugar Producers Federation earlier threw its support behind the national government plan to import as much as 450,000 MT of raw and refined sugar.

Meanwhile, the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters recognized the need for importation and the necessity of a buffer stock of the commodity.

The latest sugar import proposal came at a time when the country’s total sugar production would fall below 1.84 million metric tons, the second-lowest output in the past 22 years. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/01/19/2nd-lowest-output-in-22-years-sugar-production-hovers-below-1-84-mmt-in-2022-and-2023-sra/)