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Labor groups oppose direct sugar importation

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• GILBERT P. BAYORAN

Labor groups expressed their vehement opposition and called for the rejection of direct sugar importation, as proposed by the food and beverage industry.

Wennie Sancho, secretary general of the General Alliance of Workers Association, said they and National Congress of Unions in the Sugar Industry of the Philippines, Congress of Independent Organizations and, Philippine Agricultural Commercial Industrial Workers Union, opposed the proposal of the beverage industry, as it would be a death blow to the sugar industry.

Manila Rep. Benny Abante earlier called on the government to allow industrial users to directly import sugar for their production needs as the country braces for the effects of the looming El Niño on the agriculture sector.

Abante said the proposal allowing manufacturers or industrial users of sugar to directly import sugar for their needs should be heard, and that measures allowing this should be immediately implemented.

He cited the possible loss of jobs in the manufacturing sector as a possible immediate negative effect should a sugar crisis happen during the El Niño period.

Abante also suggested to review current laws to see what is preventing industrial users from directly importing sugar for their needs.

Under the current policy, the Philippines allows sugar imports of up to 440,000 metric tons through the minimum access volume (MAV) mechanism, which sets a lower tariff rate for these imports.

However, due to the onset of El Niño and its potential impact on the local sugar industry, allowing industrial users to import sugar beyond the MAV limit will ensure stability in the country’s sugar supply chain, he said.

The Department of Agriculture is also currently studying proposals to allow industrial users of sugar to directly import to keep the supply chain stable and prevent spikes in pricing.*

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