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Confed president urges unity to protect sugar industry

“The sugar industry needs to close ranks, take a close look at where we are today and where we want to be in the future,” Aurelio Gerardo J. Valderrama Jr., Confederation of Sugar Planters’ Associations Inc. (CONFED) president, said Wednesday, October 5.

He said CONFED also “needs to reinvent itself in order to be more relevant to our member associations and industry stakeholders.”

Valderrama’s recent election was an expression of confidence among his peers following his short-lived stint on the Sugar Board, where he was dragged into the controversy surrounding the aborted passage of Sugar Order No. 4, a press release said.

“The domestic sugar industry has been in the national limelight over the last few months, and not in a flattering way, due to the controversy regarding Sugar Order No.4,” Valderrama said.

The negative publicity, much of it anchored on unfounded accusations, has led to unintended consequences that now include proposals to abolish the SRA and to open up the domestic market to imports, he added.

“Proposals to either abolish SRA or amend its mandate under Executive Order No. 18 have come and gone and have always been felt to be unnecessary,” Valderrama added, explaining that the problem is not SRA per se but how it performs its mandate to promote the development of the sugarcane industry while balancing the interests of producers and end-users.

Valderrama also warned against the damage that uncontrolled sugar imports would cause to the industry, particularly to farmers with small pieces of land who comprise more than 85 percent of sugarcane producers.

Valderrama said several key issues that should be addressed with urgency, are the concerns of industrial end-users and consumers about the surge in prices due to supply shortages and continuing production shortfalls; the high costs of production and current low productivity of sugarcane farms;

The threat of subsidized imports and sugar substitutes, including smuggled sugar; legislative and industry-reform initiatives that will provide actual solutions to the industry’s current concerns; and the policy environment needed for sustainable growth and development of the industry.

“If these key issues are not addressed effectively,” Valderrama said, “we will see further instability that will discourage investments to improve efficiency and productivity both at the mill and farm levels.”

The new CONFED president issued a call for industry stakeholders to close ranks and seek dialog with government policy makers and legislators to discuss proactive and forward-looking measures that will help the industry “weather the storm” and become a reliable contributor to the nation’s socio-economic development.

“I thank the members of CONFED for their renewed vote of confidence,” Valderrama said, “and I hope that our call for unity will lead to long-term growth and stability aligned with the aspirations of our stakeholders and the nation’s development goals.”*PR

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