Sugar Council lauds move for direct sugar buying

By Dolly Yasa

Bacolod City – The Sugar Council lauded the government’s plan to buy sugar directly from the farmers to stabilize domestic sugar prices and help address low millgate prices over the past four months.

“We appreciate the action taken by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr. in allocating funds for the direct purchase of sugar from local producers.

“We hope that with this timely government intervention, prices can improve in the remaining months of the crop year,” the council said in a press statement issued Wednesday.

The Sugar Council is composed of the Confederation of Sugar Producers’ Associations, Inc. (CONFED), the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP), and the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (PANAYFED), led by their respective Presidents Aurelio Gerardo J. Valderrama, Jr. (CONFED), Enrique D. Rojas (NFSP) and Danilo A. Abelita (PANAYFED).

The three federations represent the majority of national sugar production.

“We thank Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr. for inviting the Sugar Council and consulting with our federations in crafting proposals to address the industry’s pressing concerns,” the group further said.

The Council submitted its proposal to the Agriculture Secretary in a meeting last January 9, 2024, during which Laurel readily expressed willingness to consider the group’s recommendations.

“Our federations look forward to more of this consultative and participatory decision-making process from the DA and SRA, as practiced in past administrations,” the council further added.

Sugar farmers hope to see sugar prices increase from a current low of PhP2,400 per bag to levels that will allow them to recover costs and provide for the following year’s crop.

Even as the implementing mechanics for the government plan are still being threshed out, prices of PhP2,700 to PhP2,800 per bag have been floated in industry circles.

The sugar council, however, cautions against “hoarding” of sugar quedans in anticipation of higher prices resulting from the government measure.

“In discussions with industry stakeholders,” the council explained, “it was stressed that this direct buying should only apply to newly-milled sugar covered by an SRA Sugar Order, and not to past weeks’ production,” they pointed out.

“This is consistent with the government’s intent to ensure fair treatment for all, especially the small sugar farmers who cannot afford to hold on to their quedans to wait for better prices. The program cannot allow the better-financed producers to benefit more than those with less resources,” the group explained.