ARBs back call to boycott 2 softdrinks manufacturers

AGRARIAN reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in Negros Occidental are supporting the call of industry leaders to boycott two beverage giants that use high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as alternative sweetener.

The ARBs Sugar Farmers Federation-Kilusang Pagbabago on Thursday, June 22, said they strongly support the Sugar Alliance in its campaign to boycott Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola products.

Aaron Sorbito, chairman of the marginal sugar farmers’ federation composed of 11 associations, pointed out that the boycott should not only focus on Coke and Pepsi, but all beverage makers and companies using HFCS.

Moreover, the group also called the industry leaders “to intensify the nationwide campaign against HFCS in the grassroots level, particularly among mothers and the youth.”

The Sugar Alliance is in the best position to spearhead the nationwide campaign in the grassroots level, as it has the network and resources, the group added.

Sugar farmers blamed HFCS for the drop in sugar prices from P1,800 per bag to less than P1,300 per bag, adding that importation of the alternative sweetener displaces the demand for local sugar, hence, the drop in sugar prices.

Sorbito pointed out that ARBs, who compose more than 80 percent of sugar farmers, are the most affected by the drop in prices because sugar is their sole source of livelihood.

“Coke’s commitment to buy two million bags of sugar this crop year is just a small fraction of its sugar consumption of 11 million bags in previous years. Two million bags translate to 100,000 metric tons, which is less than 20 percent of the projected 600,000 metric tons stock balance at the end of this crop year,” Sorbito said.

He added: “If Coke is really serious in partnering with the sugar industry, it should source at least half of its sugar requirement from locally produced sugar.”

The group also called on all stakeholders to unite and support the Sugar Alliance in the boycott against companies using HFCS and in educating the people about the health hazards of the artificial sweetener.

Meanwhile, Pepsi-Cola has yet to issue a statement on the call to boycott its products.

Former Negros Occidental governor Rafael Coscolluela had also said the public should not only boycott softdrinks, but all products containing HFCS.

Coscolluela, who previously headed the Sugar Regulatory Administration, said the campaign should not only focus on the two beverage giants.

“It shouldn't be against Coke and Pepsi only. Consumers should avoid all products that use HFCS,” he said. “If they can't do it for love of the industry and the farmers, then it should be for their sake because HFCS is worse for our health and well-being.”
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