Sugar stakeholders seek review of SIDA

November 30, 2019
Louise Maureen Simeon (Philippine Star) |

MANILA, Philippines — The local sugar industry wants lawmakers to revisit the Sugar Industry Development Act and restore its P2-billion budget as part of proposals to address the threat of import liberalization.

The Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations Inc. (Confed) recently submitted its proposals to Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, Agriculture Secretary William Dar and the Sugar Regulatory Administration to address the challenges faced by the sugar industry and prevent threats of import liberalization.

The SIDA budget has been cut over the years from P2 billion in 2016, P1.5 billion in 2017, P1 billion in 2018 and P500 million this year.

Confed is calling on the government to streamline the application process, speed up fund utilization, fasttrack program implementation and adjust fund allocation formula based on determined industry priorities.

Nicholas Ledesma, president of Confed Negros-Panay, said there have been numerous complaints from farmers of tedious compliance in accessing programs provided for by the SIDA law.

“The need to streamline processes must be addressed urgently as this has led to underutilization of the SIDA fund which in turn, hampers our plan to modernize and improve on our productivity,” he said.

Apart from SIDA, the industry is proposing programs to improve productivity and enhance the institutional and political structure of the sugar sector.

Under increasing productivity, Confed is pushing for the expansion and providing support for the block farm program, mechanization, mill upgrading and standardization as well as value-adding for mills through biotechnology and product diversification, and mobilizing progressive sugarcane farmers as farm consolidators, service providers or as peer mentors.

Confed spokesman Raymond Montinola said there is an imperative need for additional support on research and development, not only in developing and propagating new varieties that can withstand weather and soil challenges but on technology that can make farms more efficient.

The group said there is a need to enhance the stature of the industry by managing negative perceptions of both the industry and sugar farmers by projecting a “new and more positive image” of the industry.

“The industry has always been at the receiving end when retail prices of sugar go up which is why one of our urgent recommendation is to undertake direct sugar marketing to address this issue,” Montinola said.