Farmers buck liberal sugar importation
Agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and sugar labor groups have called on President Duterte to reject the recommendation of economic managers to allow sugar importation to help temper rising prices of basic goods.
Enrique Tayo, chair of the Negros Occidental Federation of Farmers Association, said in a briefing yesterday that allowing sugar importation at this time when the milling season has just started will again depress sugar prices to the detriment of local sugar producers.
Negros Occidental is known as the sugar bowl of the Philippines as it accounts for more than half of the country’s sugar output.
The sugar cropping season usually begins in September and ends in August.
According to Tayo, about 100,000 ARBs are still struggling to recover from low sugar prices in the past two years. Sugar prices are currently favorable for producers, but at the expense of consumers.
As of Tuesday, average retail prices for raw, washed and refined sugar are at P56.57, P59.86 and P67.18 a kilogram, respectively.
Compared to prices a year ago, these are higher by about 16 to 18 percent.
“This plan to allow open importation of sugar will depress sugar prices again and we may not be able to survive another crisis,” he said.
Other groups that appealed to the President included Malaga Cuenca Agrarian Reform Cooperative, Nacusip-TUCP, General Alliance of Workers Association (Gawa) and Vicmico Multi Purpose Cooperative.
In a joint statement, the groups said Mr. Duterte must “review closely the plans of the economic managers as this will greatly affect the sugar industry.”
Wennie Sancho, who represents Gawa, added that “it is better for our government to focus on stopping sugar smuggling and warn traders who are capitalizing on the situation.”
Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) chief Hermenegildo Serafice said the government economic managers should closely study the proposal given the possible adverse effect on the sugarcane industry and farmers—85 percent of whom are small-scale.
SRA board member Roland Beltran, who represents the sugar milling sector, emphasized the need for proper consultations with stakeholders.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.