Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Senate probe sought on sugar price hike

SunStar file

FOLLOWING their call to the House of Representatives, two officials of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) have asked the Senate to investigate the rising retail prices of sugar in the country.

In a letter to Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri Thursday, SRA board members Emilio Yulo III and Roland Beltran requested the Senate to initiate and conduct an investigation in aid of legislation on the matter.

Yulo and Beltran, representing the producers and millers, respectively, said it is their bounden duty to raise matters which affect the constituencies, otherwise, they shall have been remiss in their sworn duty to represent their respective sectors.

More than 90 percent of our sugar farmers are now small farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), they said.

The two officials recalled that in their recent consultation with stakeholders, complaints on high retail prices of sugar were lodged.

Based on the reports, sugar is retailing at P60.00 per kilogram or double the price at which farmers are paid at the millgate level.

Millgate prices have been steady at P1,450 to 1,500 per 50 kilo-bag.

“Thus, we see no fundamental reason for these elevated prices considering also that our warehouses are full to the brim,” they said.

Yulo and Beltran pointed out that “this is not only unconscionable but also already bordering on the criminal, especially when there is profiteering involved and outright manipulation of the market.”

They feared that this “manipulation” will eventually lead to and will be used by unscrupulous individuals and self-interest groups to justify the unbridled sugar importation at the expense of our sugar farmers.

The millers and producers representative reiterated the call to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to look into possible violations, exercise its mandate, and ensure that consumers are protected as well to maintain the viability of the sugar industry.

They claimed that instead of looking into these concerns and identifying the underlying reasons for the high prices of sugar, the “DTI has in fact been one in calling for the liberalization of the sugar industry without first conducting an investigation on these allegations.”

Moreover, in the said letter, Yulo and Beltran thanked Zubiri for supporting Senate Resolution No. 1014, urging the Executive Department not to pursue the planned liberalization of the sugar Industry.

The resolution stated that this is to safeguard the economy and welfare of sugar farmers and industry workers in 28 provinces in the country including Negros Occidental.

The proposed liberalization was anchored on the economic manager’s claim that, however misguided it may have been, locally produced sugar is expensive and these high prices of is unfairly blamed on our sugar farmers, they added.


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