• GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The Sugar Council, composed of three sugar federations, yesterday lauded the government’s plan to stabilize domestic sugar prices, aimed at helping farmers that are struggling with low millgate prices over the past four months.
“We appreciate the action taken by Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr. in allocating funds for the direct purchase of sugar from local producers” a statement from the Sugar Council said.
The national government has initially allocated P5 billion to directly purchase sugar from farmers at a premium price.
“We hope that with this timely government intervention, prices can improve in the remaining months of the crop year,” the Sugar Council added.
The Sugar Council is composed of the Confederation of Sugar Producers’ Associations, Inc. (CONFED), National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP), and the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (PANAYFED).
They thanked Laurel for inviting and consulting their federations to craft proposals to address the industry’s pressing concerns, which they submitted to him on January 9.
“Our federations look forward to more of this consultative and participatory decision-making process from the DA and SRA, as practiced in past administrations,” the Sugar Council added.
They further said that sugar farmers hope to see sugar prices increase from a current low of P2,400 per bag, to levels that will allow them to recover production costs and provide for the following year’s crop.
Even as the implementing mechanics for the government plan are still being threshed out, prices of P2,700 to P2,800 per bag have already been floated in industry circles.
The Sugar Council, however, cautioned against hoarding of sugar quedans in anticipation of higher prices due to the government measure.
“In discussions with industry stakeholders,” the Council explained, “it was stressed that this direct buying should only apply to newly-milled sugar covered by an SRA Sugar Order, and not to past weeks’ production,” the Sugar Council pointed out.
“This is consistent with government’s intent to ensure fair treatment for all, especially the small sugar farmers who cannot afford to hold on to their quedans to wait for better prices. The program cannot allow the better-financed producers to benefit more than those with less resources,” the group pointed out.*