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Sugar sector seeks help

By: Niña P. Calleja, January 23rd, 2013 11:22 PM

A group of sugar planters is seeking the government’s help in cushioning the impact of the tariff cuts on imported sugar on the local industry.

According to the Sugar Master Plan Foundation Inc., refined sugar imports in 2012 jumped by more than 24 percent to 26,453 metric tons from year-ago level, flooding the local market and displacing the produce of 3, 200 sugarcane farmers.

The group blames the tariff cuts under the Asean Free Trade Area’s (Afta) tariff reduction program for the flooding of sugar imports in the local market.

Under the Afta-Common Effective Preferential Treatment (CEPT), the tariff on sugar was slashed to 28 percent in 2012 from 38 percent. The rate will further drop to 18 percent this year, 10 percent in 2014 and 5 percent by 2015.

As tariff drops to 18 percent this year from 28 percent in 2012, SMPF executive director Felixberto T. Monasterio said sugar planters were expecting further surge in imports.

To help the industry cope with the tariff adjustments, the group is asking the government to accredit sugar-related facilities as economic zones under the Philippine Economic Zone Authority. This will entitle the sector to incentives and government support.

“We are not asking for subsidies or special treatment. We just want a little help,” he said.

The group also asked the government to earmark for the industry’s research and development projects 15 percent of the value-added tax collected on the sales of sugar products.

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