• GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations (Confed), has recommended the importation of a more conservative volume of sugar, which is lesser than the 450,000 metric tons being proposed by the Department of Agriculture and Sugar Regulatory Administration, intended to serve as a two-month buffer stock.
On the other hand, the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters also said it remains consistent in its position that the importation should be only for the specific volume needed for the buffer stock, and it should arrive in several properly scheduled tranches after the milling season.
Confed, headed by Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama Jr., in a letter submitted to the SRA on January 27, also cautioned the sugar regulating body to stagger the volume of importation, and schedule its arrival judiciously, so that it will not adversely affect mill gate sugar prices, at the tail end of the current milling season, and at the start of milling in the coming crop year.
The CONFED letter was also in response to the call by SRA for comments and recommendations from industry stakeholders regarding the request for importation made by the carbonated soft drinks (CSD) industry, represented by the manufacturers of Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola and RC Cola.
The CSD industry earlier issued a warning that the current sugar inventory will last only until the second quarter of this year, and that the projected sugar shortage endangers the continued operation of their bottling plants, risking the livelihood of thousands of employees, dealers and downstream businesses.
They also warned that any delay in the arrival of sugar supply might result to the slowdown, or even shutdown, of their operations.
However, the CSD industry remains mum on the proposed volume of sugar it needs and the proposed schedule of arrival of their importation.
While SRA provided the projected sugar production and consumption figures for the current crop year, it did not categorically state what is the actual shortage, as well as the average monthly sugar consumption of household, industrial and institutional consumers., NFSP president Enrique Rojas said in an issued statement.
Rojas also asked the SRA basis for the proposed P450,000 MT importation, schedule of its arrival and specific volume of the shipment.
The Save the Sugar Industry Movement (SAVE-SIM) said it is submitting its position paper to the SRA, expressing vehement opposition to the importation if 450,000 metric tons of sugar this year.
SAVE-SIM lead convenor Wennie Sancho disclosed that the sugar importation 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).
Sancho further said that the unregulated entry of subsidized imported sugar will be disastrous to the 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.
Meanwhile, Confed urged SRA to institutionalize an orderly sugar policy mechanism by establishing “trigger points (determined through timely assessment of consumption versus supply trends) that will signal the need for consultations with the industry to determine the appropriate sugar policy at any given time.”
The sugar group also called on SRA to formally activate and engage the Stakeholders Consultative Assembly, setting guidelines for its composition and representation; the manner, schedule and venue of consultations; and the provision of pertinent and timely information for the guidance of all stakeholders.*