Lawmaker seeks House probe on declining sugar prices

NEGROS Occidental Third District Representative Alfredo Benitez has asked an appropriate House committee to conduct an inquiry on the continuous drop in the mill gate sugar prices.

Benitez filed on Wednesday House Resolution No. 1512 after he said last week that he received reports of alleged manipulation by some traders that have pulled down the prices of sugar.

“Sugar industry stakeholders have warned the government of an impending crisis in the sugar industry, stating that the continuing decline will have adverse impact on sugar workers as sugar planters may have to cut down on labor to reduce their cost of production,” the lawmaker said.

Bemitez pointed out that latest data for crop year 2017 to 2018 showed that mill gate sugar prices continued to decline from September, dropping by 26 percent to P1,190 per 50-kilogram bag as of November 5, from P1,618 in the same period last year.

He added that the Sugar Regulatory Administration has also noted that the wholesale prices of sugar declined by 21 percent to P1,500 per 50-kilogram bag for raw sugar; by 18 percent to P1,700 for washed sugar; and by 15 percent to P2,000 for refined sugar.

Benitez also cited the protest of the Negros Farmworkers and Agrarian Reform Beneficiary Producer’s Federation, stating that small farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries will never survive the current price level of P1,190 per 50-kilogram bag.

“The stakeholders are calling for an investigation to identify the reasons why the mill gate prices continue to drop while the retail price of sugar remains the same,” he added.

In the resolution, Benitez mentioned that “the industry alleges that price manipulation by a possible cartel, smuggling, and the unceasing importation of high fructose corn syrup potential are causing the drastic decrease in sugar prices.”

“It is the duty of the State to promote the improvement of local industries, enhance agricultural competitiveness and uphold the welfare of local agricultural workers,” he added. (NLG)
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