“No need for additional sugar imports while milling season is peaking,” said Aurelio “Bodie” Valderrama, president of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations Inc. (CONFED), one of the major planters federations in the country.
Valderrama issued the statement during a recent meeting with the federation’s Executive Committee to discuss sugar industry developments, a press release said.
He explained that the importations of 200,000 MT under Sugar Order No. 3, Crop Year 2020-2021, and of 150,000 MT of sugar under Sugar Order No.2, CY 2022-2023, would have been completed by November 15, 2022, and are seen to ease the tightness in the domestic market.
“Together with the new sugar production from on-going milling operations, these two importations should suffice for now to meet expected demand during the peak milling months up to early next year,” Valderrama pointed out.
The CONFED president and recent SRA Sugar Board member however cautioned that the industry will need to assess current production capacity versus projected market demand, “with the end view of working for a well-calibrated sugar importation program that will assure stable supply and prices beyond the short term,” he said.
“CONFED is closely monitoring the current supply-demand situation,” Valderrama assured, adding that “other factors that affect the future of Philippine sugar are being studied carefully.”
Among the factors being looked into, the CONFED prexy said, are current domestic prices and negative reactions from policy makers, legislators and end-users, including the possibility of renewed sugar smuggling.
“As an example,” Valderrama cited “the delay in importation caused by the TRO on Sugar Order No. 3, CY’21-‘22, resulted in foregone production output and lost market opportunities for producers of sugar-sweetened products and at the same time, enabled various players to exploit the tight market situation and jack up retail prices to the detriment of consumers. Unfortunately, on top of protests from industrial end-users and consumers,” he added, “it is us, the producers, who are wrongly blamed for the high prices.”
That situation, Valderrama pointed out in the press release, resulted in unfortunate consequences that include demands to abolish SRA or remove its regulatory powers, as well as proposals to open up the market to direct sugar imports. He also emphasized the resurgence of outright smuggling.
“Smuggling,” Valderrama observed, “as evidenced by the recent Bureau of Customs’ apprehension of 76 containers of refined sugar, has now reared its ugly head again and poses a serious threat to the industry.” He stressed that the government “must take concrete continuing measures, together with the industry, to effectively curtail this nefarious practice.”
“Another concern that demands urgent attention,” Valderrama further stressed, “is the rapid rise in our cost of production coupled with low productivity.”
The CONFED officials agreed that the industry, together with government, must find ways to effectively address the high costs of production, particularly the prices of fertilizer, fuel and other direct costs, and that support for Research, Development and Extension must be intensified to enhance both farm productivity and milling efficiency. They also called for measures to improve program implementation and fund utilization under the Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA).
“In this regard,” Valderrama said, “we are exploring various options, in consultation with concerned stakeholders and policy-makers, on how to address all of these concerns. This will require,” according to Valderrama, “close collaboration and cooperation among all parties and institutions concerned.”
“This brings us again to what we have already called for,” Valderrama concluded, saying that “in order to be more effective as an industry, we need to have a more united voice that will be heard and heeded by government policy makers and legislators and by our own stakeholders.”*