Farmers urge consultation on sugar importation plan

Drought hit sugarcane in La Castellana, Negros Occidental.*SRA photo 

The Sugar Council said while importing sugar can stabilize the retail market in the face of insufficient local production, it has to be a solution of last resort, done in consultation with stakeholders, especially sugar farmers. 

Its schedule and volume should  also be  calibrated to avoid the milling season, the Sugar Council said in a statement released Sunday, April 19, in  response to a recent SRA statement  suggesting importation as a solution to the shortage.

If sugar importation is the last resort to fill the production shortage that may be caused by El Niño, there is a need for a logical, transparent, and consultative importation program, the Sugar Council said . 

The Sugar Council, an alliance of the  Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations Inc., National Federation of Sugarcane Planters Inc. and Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers Inc., did not outrightly dismiss SRA’s suggestion to import sugar.  

But in a letter to Agriculture Sec. Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr., the Sugar Council urged,  that “the determination of an import program shall be based on SRA’s timely analysis of market conditions, in consultation with industry stakeholders, prior to the start of the new milling season.”  

The Sugar Council’s urging came with cautious projections submitting that, unless the coming months see a spike in withdrawals, the country might not need to import raw or refined sugar until the first quarter of 2025.  

“As conservative projections go, this may of course change, needing importation sooner. And if that is the opinion of the SRA, then the Sugar Council would be interested in looking at the SRA’s projections,” it said.  

“If imported sugar is allowed to enter the domestic market before it is actually needed, it could cause the millgate price of local sugar to drop. And with local production predicted to be low in CY 2024-2025, sugar farmers are in for a double whammy,’ it added.  

The  Sugar Council  pointed out that in September 2023, SRA predicted the millgate price to be P3,000/bag, which barely happened. Over-importation was the cause, and that a repeat could irreversibly damage the sugar industry, it said. 

 President  Ferdinand Marcos Jr., through Executive Sec. Lucas Bersamin,  on April 18 also issued Administrative Order No. 20, the Sugar Council reiterated. 

“The AO mandated the Department of Agriculture to streamline import procedures and policies by removing non-tariff barriers. Many worried that the AO could make it a lot easier to bring in imported agricultural products, sugar included, which will compete with and displace demand for local agricultural products,” the Sugar Council said. 

The Sugar Council said it immediately sent a letter to Bersamin emphasizing the need for safety nets to be put in place to protect sugar farmers, and  submitted to Secretary Laurel its recommendations for the implementing guidelines of the AO.* 

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