Sugar farmers hail senator’s stance vs importation

GMANetwork Photo

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD CITY – The Sugar Council lauded Senator Imee R. Marcos for her stand against sugar importation and her advocacy to modernize sugar mills and farming practices.

The senator expressed her views on the sugar industry during her recent aid distribution to distressed residents in the 4th and 5th Districts of Negros Occidental.

“We should not automatically resort to importation; as long as we can, we should first strengthen and support our local farmers. In the midst of last year’s importations, retail sugar prices spiked up to P136/kilo. Even with importation, retail prices didn’t go down; this is not right,” the senator said.

Citing reports that warehouses are still full of sugar from last year’s importation, the senator asserted that the country should first consume local sugar production and then exhaust the remaining imported sugar before resorting to any importation.

The Sugar Council, a coalition of three federations, including CONFED, NFSP, and PANAYFED, formally acknowledged the senator’s concern and support for sugar farmers through a letter addressed to the senator.

“Your voice is a welcome comfort to sugarcane farmers calling for an importation plan that is science-based, calibrated, and equitable to all stakeholders. We pray you will continue to endorse our concerns in the halls of the Senate and wherever our story may find support,” stated the group.

The senator’s stand that locally produced sugar and the remaining imported sugar should first be consumed before resorting to any new importation was praised by the Sugar Council.

“We already saw this defied in 2023, and so we have reason to remain concerned now. Notwithstanding the El Niño phenomenon, our net inventories by the end of 2024 lead us to project that we will not need to import raw and refined sugar until the first quarter of 2025,” the Sugar Council cautioned.

Sen. Marcos disclosed in her interview that the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) is asking for a budget increase.

She chided SRA Administrator Paul Azcona to prove that the agency deserves the requested increase by working for a mill gate sugar price of at least P3,000 per bag.

The Sugar Council noted that it was SRA itself which put forward the P3,000 per bag at the start of milling last year, but based on SRA data, mill gate prices stayed below P3,000 per bag for most of the milling season, aside from a couple of weeks at the start of milling.

On the senator’s call for SRA to modernize sugar mills, the group said, “SRA can well afford to offer financial assistance to sugar mills for the upgrade of equipment and technologies. It is a matter of national security, if we consider the fact that today the sugarcane industry impacts the production of power and ethanol.”