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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, February 1, 2019
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Villar: Explain high
prices, traders control


Senator Cynthia Villar wants an explanation on the high prices of sugar in the market.

Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, said yesterday that government may have been thinking of import liberalization of agricultural products because of the rise in their prices.

However, Sugar Regulatory Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica yesterday clarified that there is no policy on the proposed import liberalization of sugar.

Villar said that the inflation rate that rose as much as 6.7 percent, from the usual two to four percent, was attributed to high prices of agricultural products.

“We should not allow traders to control the supply, as they will increase the prices, if there is a chance. Then the government is alarmed if prices increase,” Villar, who was the guest last night at the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra concert at the SMX Convention Center in Bacolod City, said.

“I guess they have to explain why sugar prices went up so much,” Villar said, adding that the beneficiaries are not the sugar farmers, but the traders.

“We should not allow things to be like that,” she said.

As to the holding of a sugar summit this month, Villar said she will listen to the industry stakeholders’ concerns.

“Maybe they (government) want to liberalize because they cannot control the price of sugar,” Villar, who expressed her support for diversification not only in the sugar industry, but also in other crops such as rice and coconuts, said.

“We should not be dependent on one crop,” she stressed.

One of the reasons why they established farm schools was to teach farmers how to become businessmen, Villar said, stressing the need to operate farms as a small business.

Serafica said that the statement of a Cabinet secretary, apparently referring Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, on import liberalization may have been a press release, or just his personal opinion.

Before all this happens, there has to be an intensive and exhaustive stakeholders consultation, he said.

In a special SRA board meeting Wednesday, that was presided over by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñnol, Serafica said they approved two resolutions reiterating the mandate of SRA under Executive Order No. 18, as well as calling for a sugarcane industry roadmap summit, that is slated on Feb. 11 and 12, at the Department of Agriculture office compound in Manila.

Invited are all stakeholders in the sugar industry, with former Negros Occidental Gov. Rafael Coscolluela as among the facilitators, he added.

In the summit, the entire sugar industry will have one voice, with all issues in the sugar industry during the 2017 summit, which never took off, as well as all inputs or position papers will be laid down on the table and collated during the summit, Serafica said.

Whatever the outputs of the agri-summit they will also be presented to President Rodrigo Duterte and to his economic managers, he added. But he also said that he cannot stop other sugar industry stakeholders from going to the President to lobby that proposed sugar import liberalization should not be pushed through.

In his briefing during the agricultural summit in Talisay City, Negros Occidental, yesterday, Coscolluela presented a possible scenario for “sugarlandia” within five years, including the reduction by 30,000 hectares for diversification of the 189,000 hectares of sugarcane plantations.

Serafica said he agrees with such possibility, adding that it is also the thrust of SRA and Department of Agriculture. Reducing the area is also a challenge to increase productivity, he added.

Of the 30,000 hectares earmarked for diversification, Coscolluela said that 15,000 hectares should be earmarked for yellow corn, and 5,000 hectares each for irrigated and mechanized rice and palay seed production, livestock (swine and poultry), as well as for tropical fruit orchards.*


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