THE Save the Sugar Industry Movement (Save SIM) is alarmed over the recent pronouncement of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno that the government is seeking to liberalize the importation of sugar, its official said.
Wennie Sancho, convenor of Save SIM, said on Monday, January 21, it is alarming for the workers in the sugar industry, particularly in Negros.
Sancho, also the secretary-general of General Alliance of Workers Associations, said the plan to deregulate the importation of sugar will cause apprehension to the workers as it will have an adverse economic impact on their families and continued employment.
“We express our vehement opposition against the proposed deregulation of sugar imports because it will drastically reduce the millsite sugar prices resulting in an adverse economic effect on thousands of sugar workers and their families,” he said.
“If imported sugar would flood into the country that would surely kill the local sugar industry,” Sancho added.
The labor leader also stressed that “we should not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.”
As it recalled that it had previously organized protest rallies to stop the importation of high fructose corn syrup, Save SIM said there are more valid reasons now that they should oppose such import liberalization scheme of sugar.
The group believed that it is grossly disadvantageous to the interests of the sugar workers.
It would ultimately lead to the collapse of the sugar industry to which the workers are dependent for their economic existence and livelihood, it said.
High retail prices of sugar could not be attributed to small farmers and millers. The government is “barking on the wrong tree”, they should go after the unscrupulous traders and retailers who are taking advantage of the situation, it added.
Sancho said they are calling for the solidarity of all sugar workers, agrarian reform beneficiaries, and small farmers to unite and oppose the liberation of sugar importation.
This is to send a strong message to the government that this scheme will ruin the sugar industry, he added.
Earlier, two officials of the Sugar Regulatory Administration have allayed concerns of the industry stakeholders amid the reported plan of the government to liberalize sugar because of high sugar prices and restrictive import policy of the agency.
In a statement on January 18, Board Members Roland Beltran, representing the millers, and Emilio Yulo III, representing the planters, said the immediate effect of the pronouncement was a further drop in millsite sugar prices.
This happened at the time “we are entering peak milling, heightened the restlessness of sugar producers over the future of their industry, livelihood for their families, and continued employment for sugar workers.”
The officials stressed, first, it is not farmgate or millsite prices of sugar that have remained high, but retail prices of sugar.
“Second, not all retail outlets are selling sugar at a high of P60 to P64 per kilo. The prevailing price of refined sugar at the retail level is P50 per kilo. Focus and investigation should be on retail outlets that have kept their prices high when farmgate and prices in other retail stores have gone down already,” they added.