BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
Amidst reports of a sugar shortage, Negros Occidental Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer yesterday said that he will conduct consultations with various sugar refineries to “restart their operation as soon as possible.”
“There have been reports that low sugar stocks are due to hoarding, but this is an allegation that needs to be verified first. On the other hand, if indeed true, I will reach out to various refineries in the province if they are willing to open their mills to refine raw sugar in order to address the perceived shortage in the market,” Ferrer said.
He also added that he is confident a solution will be presented soon as “we have a president-elect that has made agriculture among his priority programs.”
Nevertheless, Ferrer said that while everyone is waiting for the appointment of other cabinet members, including those that will serve under the Department of Agriculture, “we have to hit the ground running and prepare for the coming crop year by ensuring that we will have sufficient sugar supply in the coming months.”
He said he is elated that the provincial government is prioritizing food security and sustainability and in support of Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson’s programs, Ferrer said that he will conduct consultations with various agriculture stakeholders in the sugar industry, rice and vegetable growers.
“One important factor in the preparatory phase for all agriculture products, including sugar, has been answered by the governor through maximum and efficient utilization of water. Dredging water ways to bring water to our farms may be a back-to-basic approach but we need it badly if we want a more productive crop year in light of steep farm inputs prices, particularly fuel and fertilizers,” Ferrer added.
Like other Negros officials, Ferrer said that he hopes the next Sugar Regulatory Administrator “will come from our province but I would like to defer that decision to our president-elect and incoming Agriculture Secretary. We will fully support President Marcos’ appointment.”
However, he added that if he will be asked for his opinion, “I hope the president will appoint someone who can unify the industry.”
“We had a good start in the last administration but in recent years, policies issued by the current leadership in SRA has divided the industry. I am hoping that the new SRA chief will be able to unite the various stakeholders in the industry, will be politically savvy enough to work with other government agencies, and more importantly, will have a more consultative approach when it comes to policies that will affect the industry as a whole,” Ferrer added.*