BACOLOD

Sugar producers laud 'sugar champions' move to oppose import liberalization

THE Confederation of Sugar Producers (Confed) has acknowledged the move of "sugar champions" in the House of Representatives to oppose the proposed liberalization of sugar importation, its official said.

Confed national spokesperson Raymond Montinola, in a statement Friday, October 4, said these lawmakers have heard the plea of the sugar industry stakeholders who are being threatened by the deprivation of livelihood with the resurrection of calls to liberalize sugar importation.

Montinola said "the confederation has never been prouder of our champions in the House of Representatives for feeling the sentiments of the sugar producers, including millions of others who in one way or another are dependent on the sugar industry for their day-to-day needs."

"We have been harping on this since the Department of Finance (DOF) issued the pronouncements that they will once again pursue sugar liberalization as this is disastrous to the industry," Montinola said.

He added that the high cost of retail prices in the domestic market has no correlation with millgate prices "which is also why time and again, we have asked the Department of Trade and Industry to look into this."

Introduced on Tuesday, October 1, House Resolution 412 expresses "the strong opposition of the House of Representatives to the planned liberalization or deregulation of the importation of sugar for the purpose of safeguarding the welfare of sugar farmers, and farm and mill workers across the country."

Among those backing the resolution included Negros Occidental representatives Francisco Benitez, Joseph Stephen Paduano, Maria Lourdes Arroyo, Leo Rafael Cueva, Gerardo Valmayor Jr., Genaro Alvarez and Juliet Ferrer.

The resolution stated that it is not correct to compare local sugar prices with that of world market because the world sugar market is where major sugar exporting countries such as Thailand and India sell their excess sugar at below cost of production.

Major sugar exporting countries can afford to dump their excess sugar production in the world market because they provide massive subsidies and other forms of protection, it said.

"The liberalization or deregulation of sugar importation will not affect the competitiveness of sugar containing food products for export because they can already import sugar without value-added tax or customs duties provided that the end-product is exported and not sold locally," it added.

For Confed, the house resolution, combined with the sentiments of the "champions" in the Senate, will hopefully deter the economic managers to continue pursuing the importation scheme.

Montinola said they hope their proposal for the Department of Agriculture (DA) and DOF will be acceptable as "this will be more beneficial to all, particularly our small farmers who comprise over 85 percent of industry producers."

The group earlier stressed that any importation program must be under the direct supervision of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) for a calibrated, timely and transparent import program.

"At the moment, we cannot compete with world prices. World market is primarily a dumped market," Montinola said, adding that the local sugar industry right now needs the support of government and among which is to ensure stable prices for our sugar.

The confederation also believes that the Sugar Industry Development Act (Sida) law will definitely make the sugar industry efficient but it is still at an infantile stage.

"Given enough time and continued government support, same as what the other progressive countries are doing, our sugar industry will become competitive," its spokesperson said.


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