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Advocacy group readies position paper against sugar importation

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• CHRYSEE G. SAMILLANO

The convenors of the Save the Sugar Industry Movement in Bacolod City will be submitting a position paper to the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), expressing their vehement opposition to the government’s plan to import 450,000 metric tons of sugar this year, in order to protect the rights and welfare of the sugar workers.

The position paper to be submitted by SAVE-SIM lead convenor Wennie Sancho, states that the importation of about 450,000 MT of sugar sent chills down the spine of the stakeholders in the sugar industry. It will not only deregulate the sugar industry, it will also remove quantitative restriction and protection of our sugar under the terms of the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA).

The unregulated entry of subsidized imported sugar will be disastrous to our sugar industry which contributes billions of pesos to our GDP, specifically to the 84,000 sugar farmers and 700,000 industrial workers across the 28 provinces of the country. It will be detrimental to the farmers and farm workers and their families and to the rural communities that produce sugar. We express our vehement opposition against the importation of 450,000 MT of sugar, in order to protect the rights and welfare at the sugar workers, the position paper said.

It must be recalled that Negros based sugar producers association expressed opposition to what they called an “ill-timed” importation of 200,000 MT of refined sugar provided in Sugar Order No. 3 of the SRA on February15, 2021. As a matter of fact, it was announced that RTC Branch 73 in Sagay City, Negros Occidental had issued a 20-day TRO against the sugar imports set to arrive starting March 1, 2021, the position paper said.

This group of sugar producers “has shown to the satisfaction of the Court that grave and irreparable injury would result at SRA Sugar Order No. 3”. It was followed by another RTC in Himamaylan City had issued a TRO against the Duterte Administration’s move to allow importation of 200,000 MT of sugar. RTC Branch 65 extended on February 17, 2022 the earlier 72-hour TRO to 20 days to prevent-irreparable damage to sugar farmers who asked the court for a more permanent injunction, it said.

The opposition averred that sugar importation would bring injustice, untold irreparable damage and loses to the sugar industry. However, this sugar producer’s group manifested on January 19, 2023 that they backed the government’s plan to import 450,000 MT of sugar this year. Isn’t it confusing? They are now singing a different tune, the sugar planter’s call the 450,000 MT import plan as “acceptable volume for a buffer stock amid speculation that there may be a shortage by the end of the milling season,” the position paper said.

It is unfortunate that the same group of sugar producers who had vehemently opposed SO No. 3 in order to prevent “injustice, untold irreparable damage to the sugar industry” had expressed and given their nod of approval for the 450,000 MT Tons of imported sugar. We cannot understand as why they reneged from their previous position, it said. 

“While we recognize the need for imports and a sugar buffer stock, we should know the actual and projected production and consumption figures for this crop year. We should not be like blinds groping in the dark as to the actual volume of imported sugar which we need for domestic consumption,” the position paper said.

Sugar imports should be calibrated in volume and timed to arrive after the close of the milling so that it does not depress milling prices that would be grossly disadvantageous to the sugarcane farmers, it said.

The Department of Agriculture needs to consult with planters and millers before proceeding with imports. We are still in the peak of harvest and milling activities and there is abundant local stock at this point. The Department of Agriculture should determine if there is a real shortage, it added.*

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