Leaders of sugarcane planters federations are urging the government to review its “open to all” importation scheme, because it will eventually kill the agricultural sector of the country.
In a joint statement they issued, National Federation of Sugarcane Planters president Enrique Rojas, Unifed president Manolet Lamata, and Panayfed president Danilo Abelita, called on the economic managers of the country, particularly Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, to focus more on strengthening the local agricultural sector, rather than rely on food imports.
“Look at what happened to the bidding last Tuesday for the additional 203,000 metric tons of rice importation. Vietnam and Thailand backed out of the bidding, leaving us hanging in the air,” Lamata said.
News reports cited the two countries as claiming that the difficult Terms of Reference in the bidding compelled them to refrain from submitting their respective bids, even if they had already supplied rice to the Philippines earlier this year.
“It is unwise to depend on imported rice and sugar, because we will be at the mercy of other countries, in terms of price and availability of supply. We cannot afford to be hostage to other countries for our basic food requirements,” Rojas said.
Abelita added that these exporting countries also have to feed their own people, and this is more important to them than selling their produce to people of other countries. He said government should focus more on achieving self-sufficiency in rice, sugar, and other basic food products.
The three sugar leaders appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to help the rice and sugar industries and the entire agricultural sector to be self-reliant so the country can feed its own people, instead of being dependent on other countries.
It can be recalled that government decided to import rice, sugar, and other food products to cushion the high inflation rate that resulted in increases in the prices of these basic needs during the past months. With the onset of the rice harvest and sugar milling season, prices of these commodities have somehow softened recently.
Thailand and Vietnam are among the lowest cost rice producers, producing five to eight tons of rice per hectare at a cost of only P5 to P9 per kilo. In contrast, Filipino rice farmers produce only three to six tons of rice per hectare at a higher cost of P11 to P14 per kilo.
When it comes to sugar, Thailand is the second largest exporter in the world, next to Brazil. Total area planted to sugarcane in Thailand for Crop Year 2017-2018 was 1.57 million hectares, which produced 93 million tons canes, and 10 million tons sugar.
In contrast, the total area planted to sugarcane in the Philippines is only 418,256 hectares, which produced 23.9 million tons canes and 2.1 million tons sugar.*BUTCH BACAOCO
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