Enrique Rojas, the president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP), is seeking the help of Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel to address the challenges confronting the industry, especially the decline in sugar prices.
Rojas and other sugar industry leaders, in a meeting on Tuesday, January 9, requested Laurel for government intervention to correct the scenario that caused the drop in sugar prices.
“Current sugar prices are a far cry from the level of sugar prices last crop year. Prices now hover at around P2,400 to P2,500 per bag, which is much lower than the more than P3,000 per bag last crop year. The prevailing sugar prices can hardly compensate for the hard work, financial investments, and risks taken by farmers to produce their crop,” said Rojas.
“On behalf of our planter-members, majority of whom are small farmers, we have to do something to protect them from these almost disastrous price levels. That’s why our Federation decided to bring this matter directly to the attention of Laurel to ask him for government intervention to stop the decline in sugar prices,” Rojas added.
Data from the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) show that the majority of refined sugar withdrawals are from imported sugar, while only a small portion of withdrawals are from domestic sugar. At some point, the ratio of withdrawals between imported and domestic sugar was almost 70 percent to 30% in favor of imported sugar.
The abundance and preference for imported sugar dampened the demand for raw sugar, consequently causing the drop in sugar prices. Unless this over importation issue is addressed, farmers will continue to suffer from low sugar prices, and the government should intervene to ensure that this does not happen again, Rojas explained.
Rojas added that Laurel was receptive to the industry’s concerns.
“Being a businessman himself, the Agri Secretary understood the plight of the sugar farmers, and he promised that his office would come up with concrete proposals that he would discuss with the sugar leaders and the SRA during our next meeting,” Rojas further disclosed.
When SRA was planning to import sugar last crop year, Rojas and other sugar leaders recommended a conservative figure of approximately 250,000 metric tons (MT) to 300,000 MT. However, SRA decided to import 440,000 MT, followed by the almost 64,000 MT importation under the Minimum Access Volume (MAV), and added another 150,000 MT importation towards the end of last crop year.
Rojas pointed out that the over importation, coupled with the bad timing of the arrival of the imports during milling season, caused the drop in sugar prices, which greatly harmed the sugar farmers.*