The Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations Inc. (Confed) recently sent several proposals, an offshoot of a consultative workshop, to address the challenges faced by the sugar industry and prevent threats of import liberalization.
The proposals, in a form of a resolution signed by Confed secretary Federico Locsin, were sent to the offices of Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, Agriculture Sec. William Dar, and the Sugar Regulatory Administration Board, that recommends programs to improve productivity, revisit the Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA) and seek the full restoration of its P2 billion budget, and enhance the institutional and political structure of the industry, a press release said.
Under increasing productivity, Confed is pushing for the expansion and support for block farm program, mechanization through funds from SIDA and the DA or access to affordable loans from government financial institutions, mill upgrading and standardization as well as value-adding for mills through biotechnology and product diversification, and mobilizing “progressive sugarcane farmers” as farm consolidators, service providers, or as peer mentors.
Confed spokesperson Raymond Montinola said there is also an “imperative need for additional support on research and development, not only in developing and propagating new varieties that can withstand weather and soil challenges, but on technology that can make farms more efficient.”
It is also pushing for a review of the SIDA and its implementing rules and regulations, and urges the streamlining of application process, speed up fund utilization, fast-track program implementation and adjust fund allocation formula based on determined industry priorities.
Nicholas Ledesma, president of Confed Negros-Panay chapter, said there have been numerous complaints from farmers of a very tedious compliance in accessing programs provided for under the SIDA law, the press release said.
Confed also said there is a need to enhance the stature of the industry by managing negative perceptions of both the industry and sugar farmers, by projecting a “new and more positive image” of the industry.
Montinola said the industry has always been at the receiving end when retail prices of sugar go up, “which is why one of our urgent recommendations is to undertake direct sugar marketing to address this issue.”
Ledesma said these proposals were collectively arrived at by members of the Confed Board who went through a series of consultations and workshops, knowing that the reprieve the industry got on the threat of import liberalization is temporary and “we have to do something to address our own problems, with help from government.”
Confed also requested the DA to conduct a performance audit on SRA, to include the examination of its current organizational structure and capabilities and to ensure that SRA performs its mandate, the press release said.
It is also urging SRA to establish a rationalized and calibrated sugar allocation and import/export policy, comply with Zubiri’s Senate Resolution 156 that recommends the conversion of A sugar for local industrial consumers, establish a mechanism to address shortage of local supply for industrial users, and issue importation authority to industrial users only to the extent of the actual shortfall, among others, the press release added.*
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