Sugar industry stakeholders yesterday called on President Rodrigo Duterte and the country’s economic managers not to carry out direct importation of sugar to stem inflation, saying it will cause the collapse of the industry.
At a press conference in Bacolod City, representatives of sugar planters, labor and agrarian reform beneficiaries pointed out that retail prices of sugar have already dropped, and any importation just as the milling season has started will drive millgate prices below production levels.
Jose Maria Montinola, chairman of the VICMICO Planters Multipurpose Cooperative, said sugar has never been listed by the Department of Trade and Industry as one of the basic prime commodities that shows that it does not have any effect on inflation.
But it is DTI that is agitating for importation of sugar in behalf of big industrial users, who are earning billions of pesos in profits, at the expense of Filipino farmers, he said.
“They should moderate corporate greed,” he said.
The Sugar Regulatory Administration recently imported 6 million bags of sugar that have brought down prices of sugar in supermarkets, he said.
If government will allow importation at the start of the milling season, the prices will collapse at the expense of the farmers, just when the industry is beginning to recover, he said.
He appealed to Duterte to take a second look at the proposal of his economic managers, pointing out that sugar has never been identified as one of the causes of inflation.
If government continues to import, it will kill local agriculture and the country will no longer have food security of its own, he said.
Wennie Sancho, s ecretary general of the General Alliance of Workers Association, said labor groups in Negros are opposing further importation of sugar and appealing to the government not to push for it.
Sugar importation now will stunt the recovery of the sugar industry and the workers will be affected, he said.
If they allow importation of sugar, how can they guarantee that there will be no smuggling? Sancho added.
The sugar traders are playing with the prices at the expense of the stakeholders, especially the workers, he added.
Jun de la Cruz, chairman of the National Congress of Unions in the Sugar Industry of the Philippines–Trade Union Congress of the Philippines in Negros, also said they strongly oppose the proposal of the country’s economic managers to import sugar. They should hold dialogs with stakeholders of the sugar industry before making such decisions, he said.
Enrique Tayo, chairman of Negros Occidental Federation of Farmers Associations, said importation would hurt agrarian reform beneficiaries the most.
He pointed out that there about 100,000 ARBs in Negros each of who tills one half to one hectare of sugarcane.
Driving down millgate sugar prices will leave them with nothing to survive on after paying for production cost and their loans with the Land Bank of the Philippines, he said.
The president’s economic managers should come here and see for themselves the plight of the agrarian reform beneficiaries, he said.
Tayo said he hopes the President hears their plea, otherwise they will have to march to Malacañang again.
Pedro Ogatis, manager of the Malaga Cuenca Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative, also said direct importation of sugar will directly affect agrarian reform beneficiaries.
He said their production cost has gone up because of the lack of farm laborers during harvest season and trucking cost.
They want to bring down the cost of production, which can be solved only through full farm mechanization, he said.
The cost of production of sugar is at P1,200 to P1,300 per Lkg so if the current millgate prices of about P1,600 goes down, they will be left with no profit at all, he said.*CPG
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