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Guv bucks more sugar imports

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• GILBERT P. BAYORAN

Amid the sustained plummeting of sugar prices, Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson yesterday said that any future importation of the commodity should be put on hold.

If there is really an excess in the inventory, find a way to withdraw and use it, to correct an imbalance in the supply and demand, Lacson said.

Sugar farmers have blamed sugar importation for the low prices of sugar, as prevailing prices have been reported at between P2,300 to P2,500 per 50 kilo bag, which is below their expected price level of P3,200 that would provide a comfortable profit margin for sugar producers and small farmers.

The intervention of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has been sought by various sugar federations in the country, who also have reiterated their call for timely government intervention, as well as united action to address urgent critical issues faced by the industry.

As to claims that traders are manipulating the prices of sugar, Lacson said “I am assuming this is the result of importation, which brought down its price.”

Negros Occidental 5th District Rep. Emilio “Dino” Yulo earlier encouraged government to start directly buying sugar from producers at a price that will give them some margin of profit, noting that sugar prices have gone below its cost of production.

However, Lacson asked “where will the national government get funds to buy sugar at a certain price?”

Lacson also expressed doubts that the sugar industry can see an average of P3,000 in mill gate prices during this crop year.

“I hope the downward trend of the prices will stop already and start to go up,” he said, adding that sugar prices have gone down before.

Lacson attributed the rising cost of fuel, trucking charges, and labor that contributed to the plunge of sugar prices.

He fears that many sugar farmers, especially the small farmers, “will be in the red if the prices continue to go down.”

In a statement, the Sugar Council, composed of the Confederation of Sugar Producers’ Associations, Inc. (CONFED), the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP), and the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (PANAYFED), strongly recommended that government exert its best efforts to maintain a balanced supply and demand situation – consistent with the mandate of the Sugar Regulatory Administration “to establish and maintain such balanced relation between production and requirement of sugar and such marketing conditions as will ensure stabilized prices at a level reasonably profitable to the producers and fair to consumers,” and more particularly, to better manage sugar importations in the future, while producers and millers continue to seek ways to improve their productivity.

The group reiterated that calibrated importation, in terms of timing and volume, should not happen during the milling season, and only in volumes – including buffer stock – needed to meet market requirements between the end of the preceding milling season and the start of the succeeding milling season.

The Council statement called on all stakeholders to work together with government policy makers and regulators to enhance the long-term viability of the industry, which it said collectively remains a significant contributor to the national economy.*

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