Sugar planters demand transparent import plan

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD CITY – As the national government prepares to import 200,000 metric tons of refined sugar, major planter groups in the Western Visayas region are calling for a consultative and transparent sugar importation plan.

“The NFSP and PANAYFED are united with CONFED in calling for a data-based, transparent and consultative sugar importation plan,” said Enrique D. Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, and Danilo A. Abelita, president of the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers.

The call comes in response to Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr.’s announcement last week authorizing the importation to arrive by September, coinciding with the start of the milling season.

The planned importation has sparked concerns among local sugar producers about its potential impact on sugar prices.

The arrival of a large quantity of imported sugar at the start of the milling season is expected to exert downward pressure on millgate prices, affecting local farmers’ incomes.

Rojas and Abelita emphasized the importance of a transparent process, debunking rumors that the Sugar Council, an umbrella organization representing 67% of the affiliated sugarcane farmers and composed of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations (CONFED), NFSP, and PANAYFED, had disbanded.

“Our united commitment in the Sugar Council remains strong in advocating for the welfare of the majority of sugarcane farmers in the country,” they asserted.

Last week, CONFED president Aurelio Gerardo J. Valderrama, Jr. wrote to Secretary Laurel, highlighting the lack of stakeholder consultation and the absence of a data-driven basis for the import plan.

Valderrama pointed out that current data from the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), as of June 9, 2024, indicates adequate sugar inventory levels, with 436,229 metric tons of raw sugar and 492,985 metric tons of refined sugar.

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

The NFSP also released a statement emphasizing that the government should only import sugar when absolutely necessary and in a manner that does not adversely affect millgate prices.

“We call on the SRA to conduct a stakeholder consultation and enlighten us on the basis of the proposed sugar importation plan. We need to see the sugar production and demand figures which were used as the basis for such a plan,” Rojas and Abelita further urged.

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