The Confederation of Sugar Producers is opposing the call of food processors to deregulate the sugar industry and allow open importation of sugar.
“It seems that the lobby to liberalize sugar importation in the country is being resurrected again through the food processors and manufacturers who comprise a miniscule market in terms of sugar usage,” Confed spokesman Raymond Montinola said yesterday.
Roberto Amores, president of the Philippine Food Exporters Inc., was quoted as saying that “domestic processors are hurting and high cost of sugar in the local market is killing the local industry, but favoring foreign competition”, Montinola said.
“We beg to disagree with Mr. Amores because millgate sugar prices have not increased drastically in the past months to warrant a labeling as prohibitivecost of domestic sugar,” he added.
There are mechanisms in place set up by the Sugar Regulatory Administration to allow industrial users, including food processors, to prioritize their need, Montinola pointed out.
However, instead of doing so, they would rather lobby via the media to call for direct importation, knowing that, in so doing, over 5 million Filipinos who are directly and indirectly dependent on the sugar industry will suffer, he said.
“We suspect that there are larger groups behind this lobby and we will remain vigilant against this move to ensure that our industry is protected,” Montinola added.
Amores also compared the cost of Thai sugar to that of Philippine sugar, knowing full well that Thailand producers are heavily subsidized while sugar farmers in our country have to fend for themselves without any support from the national government, he said.
Even the Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA) fund which was supposed to help in the modernization of the industry, has been reduced to P500 million, a fourth of what was initially P2 billion, thus farmers are reduced to rely on traditional farming, not to mention the high cost of farm inputs and implements, Montinola noted.
“Truth be told, food processors have been allowed in the past to directly import sugar for their needs, however, there have been instances that these imported sugar were eventually found sold in domestic market, making it technically sugar smuggling,” he said.
The SRA has already mentioned in the past that they will import sugar when the need arises. The fact that the same has not been issued means that there is ample sugar in the domestic market for the food processors. All they have to do is ask and consult with the agency that is tasked to address their concern, Montinola said.*
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