BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The clamor against the move of the Sugar Regulatory Administration to import 200,000 metric tons of sugar, as provided on its issued Sugar Order Number 3, continues to snowball.
Roberto Cuenca, president of the Asociacion de Agricultores de La Carlota y Pontevedra Inc. (AALCPI) scored SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica for issuing such an order “without proper consultation with industry stakeholders. We were never informed and yet he knows we are the biggest group in so far as membership is concerned, and mostly of small sugar farmers.”
“He (Serafica) also knows we are in the midst of milling season and any importation order now will have a ripple effect,” Cuenca said, in agreement with other sugar federations that said the issuance of the sugar order is “ill-timed.”
The AALCPI is the biggest non-affiliated sugar planters group with over 10,000 members.
In a statement issued by AALCPI, Cuenca also said that the importation order while in the peak of milling season “will have a disastrous effect in the sugar industry, particularly among the small sugar producers.”
Serafica earlier defended the sugar importation, claiming that it will ensure the balance between supply and demand, as well as stabilizing prices.
Cuenca also slammed Serafica for justifying that the need to import sugar “when he has not even addressed our immediate concern of high cost of farm inputs that we have brought to his attention since last year.”
“Administrator Serafica should take time to consult small farmers so he can personally hear their appeal as many could not afford to even replant for the next crop year if this situation continues,” Cuenca said, adding that what is perceived as “high cost of sugar simply off-sets high cost of farm inputs.”
AALCPI is also questioning the volume of importation as “too big and definitely, should not have been granted at this time.”
Cuenca said that they were informed that most producers SRA consulted agreed to an importation order but in tranches of 50,000 metric tons and implemented by the closing of the milling season.
“Right now, we have enough supply, milling is ongoing so what balancing act between supply and demand is Serafica talking about,” he said, adding that if indeed there is a projection that supply will be tight in a few months, “an initial order of 50,000 metric tons as suggested by industry stakeholders would suffice.”
Cuenca said that AALCPI will not hesitate to join protest moves by other sugar federations if their appeal will not be heeded.*