By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
The Sugar Council expressed their concern over the proposal of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) which allows traders to import more sugar to address low millgate prices.
In its letter forwarded to SRA head Pablo Luis Azcona, the Sugar Council said that even though they all agree on the need for timely and appropriate intervention, they feel that the proposed traders program is “inopportune.”
They pointed out that millgate prices have dropped because of over-importation and predatory pricing, which have put into serious question any program that suggests even more trader intervention and importation.
“To insist on it would be adding insult to injury,” the council said.
The Sugar Council’s objection stemmed from the popular understanding among sugarcane farmers that importation was the cause of low millgate sugar prices in the first place.
The council is composed of various sugar groups, such as the Confederation of Sugar Producers Association (Confed), the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP), and the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (PanayFed).
For his part, Confed president Aurelio Gerardo Valderrama, Jr. said they expressed clear and unequivocal objection to sugar importation.
Valderrama pointed out to the SRA that alternatives to the proposal had been on the table earlier this year.
He refers to the government’s intervention plan, wherein they will directly purchase sugar from local producers.
“The Sugar Council proposed a government intervention solution to Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr. back on January 9, and the Secretary ordered the SRA to conduct a technical working group meeting to iron out the details,” Valderrama said.
They added that the proposal for additional sugar importation is diametically opposed to the earlier plan.
PanayFed president Danilo Abelita said they know very well that over-importation got them in the mess they are in today, and pointed out that agreeing to additional importation is suicidal.
NFSP president Enrique Rojas also questioned the SRA as to why they cast aside the plan for government intervention.
“So why did the SRA suddenly turn around and propose a new plan, one that is highly contested because it calls for even more sugar importation?” he asked.
Rojas argued that the SRA should “not change horses in midstream,” adding that harvesting is almost done.
“Harvesting is almost done in many areas. Aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo?” Rojas said./DGB, WDJ