Planters divided on Sugar Importation Plan

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD CITY—The announcement by the national government to import 200,000 metric tons of refined sugar elicited contrasting reactions from sugar planters here.

While the United Federation of Sugarcane Planters (UNIFED) expressed outright support, the Confederation of Sugarcane Producers’ Associations (CONFED) cautioned the national government, citing that the current supply can last without importation.

In a press statement furnished to Daily Guardian on Sunday, CONFED said it wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu-Laurel Jr., expressing concern over the government’s plan to import a specific volume of refined sugar, in this case, 200,000 metric tons, in September.

“The report did not include any basis for such a plan. Neither was any stakeholder consultation conducted,” CONFED stated.

In his letter to Secretary Laurel, CONFED President Aurelio Gerardo J. Valderrama Jr. contended that current data from the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), dated June 9, 2024, indicate adequate sugar inventory levels of both raw (436,229 MT) and refined (492,985 MT) sugar.

Current rates of withdrawal indicate that local inventory can last without importation until the start of the milling season later this year, Valderrama stressed.

Moreover, Valderrama pointed out that the SRA has not yet announced the official start of milling for Crop Year ’24-’25, and no crop estimates have been made for the new crop year, which has been affected by the El Niño phenomenon.

With these concerns, CONFED is asking the SRA to begin consulting with the industry to discuss sugar policy for CY ’24-’25.

Valderrama said in his letter, “Consistent with our frequently stated position, we reiterate that any sugar importation plan should be data-based, calibrated, totally transparent and fair, done in consultation with industry stakeholders and therefore immune from speculation and manipulation.”

Earlier, UNIFED President Manuel Lamata said they support the sugar importation plan because it will address the shortage before the harvest season starts in September.

He said the harvest this coming crop year will be delayed due to El Niño, adding that “when we were consulted about this matter, we approved the proposal.”

SRA Administrator Paul Azcona explained that the program referred to by Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu-Laurel is Sugar Order No. 2, which involves pre-qualifying potential importers by requiring them to buy local farmer sugar first.

In an interview with national media on Thursday, Laurel said the Department of Agriculture will finalize its sugar order in the second week of July since current sugar stocks are expected to drop in August. He assured that the move involved consultations with stakeholders.

Azcona noted that Sugar Order No. 2 increased the price to a stable P2,700 to P2,800 per bag of raw sugar, which also stabilized retail refined sugar prices at P73 to P100 per kilogram.


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