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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, November 20, 2019
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Economic managers open
to sugar talks, Zubiri says


Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said yesterday that the country’s economic managers are willing to sit down with sugar industry stakeholders to come up with solutions to ease sugar supply problems.

Zubiri told the DAILY STAR that Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez have agreed to the meeting in response to Senate Resolution 213 urging the executive department not to pursue the planned sugar import liberalization to safeguard the welfare of farmers and industry workers in more than 20 provinces in the country.

In their resolution, the senators warned that the deregulated entry of subsidized sugar into the Philippines will be disastrous to the country’s sugar industry, which contributes an estimated P95 billion to the Gross Domestic Product.

“We spoke to secretaries Dominguez and Lopez of the finance and trade departments. They are willing to sit down with the stakeholders to come up with out-of-the-box solutions to ease sugar supply problems,” Zubiri said.

“Weproposed to them a series of consultations after a sugar summitso we can come up with a firm number of solutions for the industry and its industrial users”, Zubiri said.

Zubiri said he and Senator Cynthia Villar are going on a field trip to Thailand in January to see their best practices and probably have the summit by February.

Meanwhile, the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) and industry stakeholders have collaborated to address low yields in sugarcane farming, a government press statement said.

Emilio Bernardino Yulo, planters representative to the Sugar Board, said they hope to map out a consolidated plan on how to increase sugarcane production to meet the local demand and compete with Asean neighbors.

"We hope to come up with a consolidated plan, we will take a look at productivity (and) efficiency. We want short term, medium term and long-term solutions with the end in view of at least being in parity with our Asean neighbors because that’s always the benchmark used against Philippine sugar," Yulo said.

He also said they are scouting for some new areas for sugarcane plantations, and hopefully will come up with a roadmap as stakeholders and government hold a sugar summit in February 2020.

"This is not just a roadmap for the industry made up by the industry. We will have government with us, the Senate will be there (summit)," he said.

He said sugar stakeholders met last week and agreed to collaborate on the following projects:

*Regional benchmarking of best practices in sugarcane farming – the best practices and modern technologies at the various sugarcane regions will be surveyed and packaged as training material in sugarcane farming.

The output of the benchmarking project will be used in roadshows or incorporated in the training modules of the Outreach Program of the Sugarcane Industry and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority -accredited training centers.

*Capacity building – SIMAG Foundation and Planters Associations with TESDA-accredited training centers will handle the training incorporating the best practices in sugarcane farming and SRA will provide the funds, including the acquisition of necessary farm machinery and equipment that can be used in their sugarcane farming training modules.

*Upgrading of PhilSuRin (Philippine Sugar Research Institute) Research Laboratory – SRA will fund the acquisition of various laboratory equipment of the PhilSuRin for its breeding projects and extension services to the farmers in proximate sugarcane mill districts.

The SRA and the industry players have the resources and expertise which can be bundled into one to make the industry competitive next year and beyond, Yulo said.

Low farm productivity can be addressed through the joint efforts of industry players and sugar end-users, specifically the beverage manufacturers which are large consumers of sugar, he added.

At present, Yulo said the country's domestic consumption is about 2.4 million metric tons (MMT) to 2.6 MMT.

"We’re producing roughly 2 MMT so the shortage is about 400,000 MT to 600,000 MT. If we improve 10 percent, that would be 200,000 MT every two years. So, for after six years, we will have sufficiency in sugar," he noted.

Yulo said if sugar production reaches 2.5 MMT to 2.6 MMT, "we don't have to talk about importation, we just have to talk about pricing."*CPG/PNA


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