Group nixes moves to liberalize sugar imports

By: Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – While sugar industry stakeholders initially welcomed the appointment of William Dar as the new Agriculture Secretary, knowing his nature to help the marginalized Filipinos, that perception changed overnight upon his pronouncements that he is open liberalizing sugar importation.

In a statement sent to media outfits on Aug 14, 2019, Enrique Tayo, chairman of the Negros Occidental Federation of Farmers Association (NOFFA), a group of agrarian reform beneficiaries in Southern Negros, said he is “disappointed to say the least by this announcement.”

Tayo said they were told that Dar is knowledgeable in agriculture and ought to know that liberalizing sugar importation will hurt small farmers.

“He has not even consulted stakeholders and yet will make such an announcement already knowing that we have been opposing that move in the last couple of years and seeing the effects of such in our rice industry,” Tayo said.

They were alarmed when Roberto Amores of Philfoodex announced that Dar is open to liberalize sugar imports and they will ask the new DA Secretary for clarification as to the role of Amores in making the statement.

“We all know who Bobby Amores is. He has been lobbying for sugar importation, allegedly for the survival of his group when we know that their requirement is not huge enough and can be supplied by the domestic market,” Tayo said.

“We are now more alarmed to hear from Dar himself that he is appointing Amores to head the DA’s Secretary Technical Advisory Group (STAG). Amores’ appointment is a clear indication as to how this issue on sugar importation will go and we are appealing to Secretary Dar to review this appointment and choose people who has the farmers’ interest and the agriculture’s future at heart,” Tayo added.

Earlier, Raymond Montinola, spokesperson of the Confederation of Sugar Producers (Confed), the biggest group of sugar farmers in the country, said that they also welcome Dar because of his “penchant to help the poor Filipinos that strikes us the most as 85 percent of our producers are small farmers.”

“We believe he (Dar) will provide proper attention to the small farmers insuring them a more sustainable livelihood,” Montinola added.

With Dar’s openness to sugar importation, Montinola said that “while imports are no longer avoidable due to the industry’s inability to meet domestic demand, these imports must henceforth be calibrated on the basis of a careful analysis of projected production versus demand, and in consultation with industry stakeholders.”

“This will require the updating of industry data with respect to actual area under cultivation and the corresponding crop estimates of the different sugarcane-growing districts throughout the country, as well as an accurate and fair determination of demand by industrial users, food exporters and domestic consumers,” Montinola said, adding that Amores’ group must not be the basis for such call as they “require a miniscule amount for their industry.”

They also see the need for industry stakeholders to adopt strategic measures to “adjust to fast changing conditions” through the proper utilization of the SIDA fund and reiterates that in this matter, “the Sugar Regulatory Administration must play a key leadership role in addressing this issue.”

(Photo Courtesy of textpin)