Sugar leaders reject ‘win-win solution’ on HFCS issue

SUGAR industry leaders rejected the “win-win solution” on the high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) issue presented by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.

The Sugar Alliance, in a statement Friday, said that Piñol’s offer is “unacceptable and continues to reek of preference for the beverage companies rather than for sugar farmers.”

They added that the Agriculture Secretary seemed to "only see one side of the equation, and unfortunately that side favors the multi-nationals rather than the sector he needs to be protecting.”

Piñol met the other day with Sugar Regulatory Administration head Anna Rosario Paner, officials of Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines and Pepsi Cola Philippines, Board of Investments Governor Lucita Reyes, Department of Agriculture and Bureau of Fisheries executives, a miller representative, and a sugar farmer to discuss the implementation of sugar order regulating the entry of HFCS.

Piñol said that among the agreements reached during the meeting was that Coca-Cola agreed to increase their consumption of local sugar from 90:10 to 80:20, which means from 10 percent to 20 percent.

Moreover, Piñol said that Coca-Cola and Pepsi committed to consider the advance purchase this year of their sugar requirements for 2018 “to help ease the low sugar prices which affect the country's sugar farmers.”

He also said that SRA will issue a classificatory letter stating that the HFCS shipments which arrived in the country before the March 10 effectivity order will not be covered by the new regulation.

Coca-Cola will also withdraw its injunction case before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, the Agriculture Secretary said. The beverage giant is seeking to nullify SRA’s sugar order regulating the importation of HFCS.

Piñol further said that SRA will study the proposal of Coca-Cola and other beverage companies to be given access to the lower-priced "D" Classification Sugar, or the World Market Sugar.

He said the beverage firms claimed that access to “D” sugar would effectively allow them to be less dependent on HFCS.

However, the Sugar Alliance said they are taken aback by the pronouncements of Piñol sans a dialog with the sugar industry stakeholders, adding that they have been calling for “proper consultation.”

“We take offense at the offer of Coke to increase their consumption ratio from 90:10 to 80:10 when then, they have been producing their beverage at 80:10, 80 being sugar,” the statement said.

“The Secretary once again reiterated in behalf of the soft drink companies to give them six months to allegedly adjust their processing machines when sources have been saying this is not true and that is a mere excuse of these companies to justify their massive importation of HFCS in the next six months,” it added.

The sugar industry leaders said the farmers have been bleeding since sugar prices have dropped to P1,300 from P1,800 per LKg since the start of the crop year.

They also slammed Piñol for supporting the request of the beverage companies to buy “D” sugar which is intended for the world market, fully knowing that “D” sugar prices is crippling to the industry.

“We are baffled that the Secretary continues to speak for the beverage companies yet have no time to dialog with us so he can see the real picture from the ground and perhaps finally understand where we are coming from,” the statement said.

The sugar industry leaders said that the farmers in the country have never been given government subsidy and maybe Piñol could help address the concern.

Negrenses have been calling the public to boycott Coke and other beverages that are using HFCS.
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