Sugar farmers question export-import strategy

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD CITY – Export, then import?

This is the question sugar farmers are asking about the national government’s plan to export and then import sugar.

In a press statement Thursday, the Sugar Council cited that on July 4, sugar farmers’ federations received communication from Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) Administrator Pablo Azcona, dated July 1, 2024, with an attachment on a proposed sugar order titled “Export of Raw Sugar in Fulfillment of the U.S. Sugar Quota for the Year 2024 to Avail of Allocation for Future Import Program.”

The federations were asked to comment on the proposed sugar order by July 8, which the Sugar Council, an alliance of three sugar farmers’ federations, complied with.

The council’s letter, addressed to Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. and coursed through SRA Administrator Azcona, highlighted the confusion among farmers regarding the country exporting raw sugar to the U.S. while planning to import sugar.

The council sought clarification on this matter.

However, before a response from the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the SRA could be received, on July 10, Philstar Global published an online article titled “Philippines to Export 27,400 MT Raw Sugar to US Soon,” penned by Jasper Emmanuel Arcalas.

The article revealed that the Philippines’ U.S. sugar export quota had been unserved since the 2020-2021 crop year.

At the start of the current crop year (2023-2024), the SRA did not set an export volume for the U.S., leading to the reassignment of the Philippines’ allocation of 141,142 MT.

The article also disclosed that in November 2023, the SRA requested the quota to be reinstated “to relieve the raw market of supply.” Thus, an allocation of 24,700 MT was granted.

Still, farmers remain puzzled as to why there is a need to import sugar even as an export order is being prepared.

It is recalled that on June 27, the same national newspaper posted on its social media account that Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. announced the government is set to approve the importation of 200,000 metric tons of refined sugar that would arrive by September to ensure ample stocks and prevent price spikes in the market.

Thus, farmers have reason to be puzzled.

“Why export and then import? Why export 24,700 MT of raw sugar, which we are short of, and replace it with 61,750 MT of refined sugar (at a 1:2.5 ratio), of which we have too much?” the Sugar Council asked.

The council emphasized that it would benefit the DA and the SRA to explain the situation to the common farmer, who is understandably worried about mill gate prices when the sugarcane harvest begins later this year.

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