Sugar producers welcome move to prevent import liberalization

Sugar producers, millers, and manufacturers have lauded the move of sugar processors to prevent sugar import liberalization.

“We welcome the move of the food processors and exporters to stop their lobby for sugar import liberalization and we look forward to working with them and addressing their needs,” Tatak Kalamay, an umbrella organization of sugar federations, millers, labor, farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries, said Thursday in a statement.

“It is indeed a big relief for us in the sugar industry if they stay true to their word in supporting our call to scrap the proposed liberalization of sugar importation,” they added.

Food and agriculture processors earlier asked for 105,000 metric tons (MT) sugar import annual allocation to stabilize their manufacturing input, and raise their global competitiveness due to lower cost.

They claimed that even just half of the volume produced yearly will be good enough to significantly raise food processors’ global competitiveness.

It will also cut sugar cost for food manufacturing from PHP55-PHP60 per kilo locally to PHP28-PHP30 a kilo in other Southeast Asian countries, particularly Thailand.

In a statement, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture & Food Inc. (PCAFI) President Danilo Fausto said their petition for an import allocation will be accompanied by an implementation mechanism to ensure it does not adversely affect local sugar farmers’ plight.

“We’ll issue a petition to be submitted to (Agriculture) Secretary (William) Dar and President (Rodrigo) Duterte.

We will also propose an implementation mechanism that will ensure this allocation will not go to the retail market but rather help our food producers become competitive,” he said.

The processors also guarantee that the sugar import will be used solely as input for its food manufacturing and not for retail to the domestic market in order not to adversely affect sugar farmers’ income.

Tatak Kalamay said it will remain skeptical about the proposed sugar import and will continue to remain vigilant.

“But for the good of the sugar industry, we are extending our hand of conciliation and our willingness to sit down and resolve their issues and ours, is on the table,” the group said.

They also thanked the various sectors “who came out to support our call, particularly our agrarian reform beneficiaries and our labor partners, the provincial government of Negros Occidental and Bukidnon, the Bacolod City Council, the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce.”

“(We are) also thankful to our sugar champions in the Senate, particularly Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Cynthia Villar who recently heeded our appeal, along with our defenders in the House of Congress, to put a stop to the planned sugar import liberalization,” they added.

At the same time, the group asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) “to step up to the plate and support the sugar industry”.