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Planters blame imported sugar for low prices

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• GILBERT P. BAYORAN

Reports from the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) reveal that more imported sugar than local sugar is being withdrawn by traders, resulting in the prevailing low prices of P2,300 – P2,500 per 50-kilo bag, according to the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations, Inc.

Of the 209,408 metric tons of refined sugar withdrawn by traders as of November 12, CONFED revealed that 32 percent, equivalent to 66,608MT was locally refined sugar, while 68 percent, or 142,800MT is comprised of imported refined sugar, citing the SRA’s Sugar Supply and Demand Situation reports.

Of the 173,257MT of refined sugar withdrawn as of October 29, sixty nine percent, which is equivalent to 119,050MT was imported refined sugar, while only 31 percent, or 54,209MT, was locally refined, CONFED said after a review of the SRA report during their recent meeting in Manila.

This seems to indicate that priority is given to imported sugar over locally refined sugar, said CONFED President Aurelio Valderrama Jr.

The intervention of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel has been sought by sugar farmers to address the plummeting of sugar prices.

Manuel Lamata, president of the United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED), sought state intervention, stressing that they and the five million dependents of the sugar industry will clearly not be enjoying the holidays under the present conditions, as he fears many workers will be displaced and their families will go hungry.

“We know President Marcos’ heart is with and for the farmers as he has told us so, and we are calling for his intervention on this matter,” Lamata said.

Valderrama called on the Department of Agriculture to switch priorities and give more importance to locally refined sugar.

Compared to locally refined sugar, imported refined sugar is cheaper, and so it will deliver more profits for importers and traders. But how about the sugar farmers? he asked, stressing that the local sugar industry is the one providing employment to millions of Filipinos.

Valderrama said they have written to President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., asking for fuel subsidy, noting that the cost of production inputs continue to rise even as sugar prices go down.

CONFED recalled that the SRA Sugar Board passed Board Resolution 2023-159 “to lift the deadline set for importers under Sugar Order No.7, series of 2022-2023 to reclassify, distribute, and dispose imported refined sugar until further notice.”

SO7 authorized the importation of 150,000MT of refined sugar to enter the Philippines by September 15. Importers were mandated to distribute their allocations by October 15. The intention of SO7 was to provide a buffer stock, but many feared the 30-day window between September 15 and October 15 was too late since milling was scheduled to begin on October 1, CONFED further said.

The fact that Board Resolution 2023-159 was issued before the October 15 deadline for importers to distribute their imported sugar appears to confirm farmers’ fears that over importation would cause the decline in sugar prices, it further said.

CONFED said that sugar farmers want to know now, how much of the 150,000MT was actually distributed and how much was left undistributed as a result of the Board Resolution.

The current situation suggests that the Board Resolution failed to fix the problem of declining sugar prices, it also stressed.*

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