CONFED opposes call to allow open importation

By: Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – Raymond Montinola, spokesperson of the Confederation of Sugar Producers (CONFED) said on June 12, 2019 that they oppose the call of the food processor industry to deregulate and allow open importation of sugar.

In a press statement sent to media outfits here, Montinola said that “It seems that the lobby to liberalize sugar importation in the country is being resurrected again through the food processors and manufacturers who comprise a miniscule market in terms of sugar usage.

The press statement stated that recently, Roberto Amores, president of the Philippine Food Exporters, Inc., was quoted as saying that “domestic processors are hurting and high cost of sugar in the local market is killing the local industry but favoring foreign competition.”

“We beg to disagree with Mr. Amores because millgate sugar prices has not increased drastically in the past months to warrant a labelling of prohibitive cost of domestic sugar,” Montinola said.

There are mechanisms in place set up by the Sugar Regulatory Administration to allow industrial users, including food processors, to prioritize their need, he added.

Montinola also said that over 5 million Filipinos who are directly and indirectly dependent on the sugar industry will suffer if open importation is approved.

“We suspect that there are larger groups behind this lobby and we will remain vigilant against this move to ensure that our industry is protected,” he said.

As to Amores comparing the cost of Thai sugar to that in the Philippines, Montinola said “he knows fully well that Thailand producers are heavily subsidized while sugar farmers in our country have to fend for themselves without any support from the national government.”

Montinola added that “even the Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA) fund which was supposed to help in the modernization of the industry has been reduced to P500 million, a fourth of what was initially P2 billion, thus farmers are reduced to rely on traditional farming, not to mention the high cost of farm inputs and implements.”

“Truth be told, food processors have been allowed in the past to directly import sugar for their needs, however, there have been instances that these imported sugar were eventually found sold in domestic market, making it technically sugar smuggling.”