NATIONAL Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP) said it opposes the planned importation of sugar by the National Government, which Negros Occidental Governor Isidro Zayco deemed as “dangerous."

It will not give the local market and the sugar industry, in general, the chance to level the playing field, said Zayco.

For updates from around the country, follow Sun.Star on Twitter

"This is the only time we can catch up with our bad experience in the past amid the flooding of imported sugar in the country that obviously shrink the industry by making it less competitive," said Zayco.

NFSP president Enrique D. Rojas echoed the sentiments of thousands of sugar producers in opposing government's plan to import sugar amid rising domestic sugar prices.

"Sugar producers have been hit by a double whammy of poor sugar prices and high fertilizer and fuel costs during the past several crop years. It is only this crop year when sugar prices have been favorable that we are starting to recover our losses in the past years," Rojas said,.

Retail refined sugar prices in Metro Manila have reportedly reached P46 to P48 per kilo last week, prompting the government to seriously consider sugar importation with tax subsidy.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya confirmed that Trade Secretary Peter Favila and Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap are set to discuss the matter in Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

Sugar Regulatory Administrator Rafael Coscolluela has also confirmed that the government may import sugar.

He said the country may import refined sugar to address the perceived tightness in sugar supply.

With current record-high world sugar prices, however, even Coscolluela himself is not optimistic that tax-subsidized sugar imports can dampen present domestic prices.

"It does not make too much of a difference because of the high world market price, but at least it will stem the increase in prices and stop speculation," Coscolluela said.

World raw sugar for March delivery reached US 28.95 cents per pound last January 7 at the New York Intercontinental Exchange. At foreign exchange rates of P45.81 per dollar, it translates to roughly P1,460 per 50-kilo bag. That price does not include freight, insurance, tariff and E-VAT, SRA liens and fees, domestic distribution and repacking cost, refining tolling fee and profit margins for traders and distributors.

On the other hand, domestic millgate prices during the bidding last January 6 ranged from P1,631.80 to P1,780 per bag.

"Domestic sugar prices only reflect the global trend. It is a direct result of the huge global deficit for this crop year which compelled sugar-importing countries like India, Pakistan and Egypt to dig the bottom of the barrel for sugar supplies. This drives up world sugar prices and, consequently, even domestic sugar prices," Rojas said.

Government should allow market forces to determine prices, Rojas emphasized.

On Tuesday, the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines, an organization of sugar millers and planters' federations, will also have a meeting. High on the agenda will be government's proposal for sugar importation and, if government really pushes hard for the measure, the mechanics for the importation such as the volume and manner of importation and distribution.

Meanwhile, on rice supply, the National Food Authority has assured 100,000 bags of rice are available which will be up for consumption for 51 days.

Zayco said the NFA assured to still sell their stocks cheap affordable for the people and that it also affirmed "no shortage in rice."

Zayco also said NFA hinted to import rice but for the province he said of enough supply as buffer is readily available. (With Butch Bacaoco)