Sugar producers caution government over import plan

January 8, 2020
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) |

MANILA, Philippines — The Confederation of Sugar Producers Association Inc. (Confed) called on the Department of Trade and Industry and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to resolve the issue of sugar prices.

This after the DTI and SRA revealed plans to allow domestic food processors and confectionaries to bring in imported sugar if local price could not meet the P1,900 per bag level in the global market.

Confed spokesperson Raymond Montinola said stakeholders could not understand why the burden to reduce prices is pressed over the shoulder of the sugar farmers.

“Prices should be reduced at the retail market and not against the lowly sugar farmer. There is no need to import since there has been already an importation of 250,000 metric tons of refined sugar that should have stabilized sugar prices,” he said.

Former SRA administrator Bernardo Trebol cautioned DTI and SRA against pinning the blame on the industry, saying  “local sugar farmers have nothing to do with domestic retail prices.”

“Sugar farmers know only one thing and that is to grow sugarcane. Our industry survived even with the challenges of progressive lands chopped into small parcels of  land yet we make a conscious effort to consolidate these farms into one functional farm although this is easier said than done,” Trebol said.

“We are lucky to have sustained livelihood for our farmers in general. But further pressure to reduce our farmgate prices might be the last straw that would break the camel’s back,” he said.

Confed has reiterated its recommendation for DTI to utilize its mandate through the Price Act where it can provide price ceiling.

Montinola said such avenue could provide the win-win solution sought after by the government.

Stakeholders maintained that local food manufacturers could buy directly their sugar requirements from sugar districts and associations nearest their supply hubs to avail of the low farmgate prices and avoid middle men to further minimize on cost.

Meanwhile, Confed Negros and Panay chairman Nicolas Ledesma said food processor exporters must be issued import permits by SRA for their sugar supply requirements provided that the finished products are solely for export.

“We hope that DTI will also see our side in this issue and resolve it with lawful tools they have on hand rather than incessantly calling for importation as a quick fix solution,” he said.

The Philippines has allocated bulk of its target production for the crop year for the domestic market amid an expected relatively flat output.

For the new crop year which started in September 2019 and end in August this year, the Philippines expects to produce 2.096 million MT of sugar.

This represents an increase of 1.1 percent from last crop year’s 2.072 million MT.

The lower production will likely result in more sugar imports this crop year as the country needs to maintain at least 2.2 million MT to meet local demand.