"This is alarming."
This was stressed by Wennie Sancho, secretary-general of General Alliance of Workers Association (Gawa), after the price of sugar continue to plummet at P2,500 per 50 kilo bag, below the expected price level of P3,200 and below the comfortable profit margin for sugar producers and small farmers.
Sancho, in a statement Wednesday, December 13, said there is more supply, but the demands remain the same.
He said the oversupply was caused by the sugar import liberalization scheme policy of the government.
He added that the sugar import liberalization will have an adverse effect on agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), small farmers, industrial and mill workers who are dependent on the sugar Industry.
Sancho noted that conservative estimate shows that there are around 300,000 sugar workers in the island of Negros and about 500,000 nationwide.
Sancho said the Philippine sugar industry provides jobs to at least 700,000 Filipinos who are directly employed in sugar industry production.
If the downward trend in the prices of sugar shall continue, he added that it would be devastating for the labor sector.
"The result would be social unrest, joblessness, economic dislocation and ultimately the collapse of the sugar industry," Sancho said.
He said the penchant of the government to implement sugar import liberalization without doing an assessment on the state of readiness of the sugar industry is a fatal mistake.
"It will be a blue Christmas for the workers in the sugar industry if there is no intervention from the government to address this crucial problem, especially that the mill gate price of sugar is at P50 per kilo, while the retail price continue to remain at P80 at the expense of the consumers," he added.
Sancho recalled that on February 7, 2023, the Save the Sugar Industry Movement (SAVE-SIM) sent Resolution No.001 Series of 2023 to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. or "An Omnibus Resolution against the Planned Importation of 450,000 Metric Tons of Refined Sugar."
"Unfortunately, our appeal was taken for granted. Some group of planters even supported the importation, calling it acceptable but now they are complaining to the government," Sancho said.
He said the sugar industry would have died a long time ago, if it were not for the resiliency of the pillars of this industry.
He added the foundation of the sugar industry was painfully built with the workers blood, sweat and tears. During times of crisis they have made ultimate sacrifices to the survival of the sugar
He said Gawa joins the call for government intervention and proposes a dialogue with the planters group for a united front to address this issue in order to save the workers from economic catastrophe. A unified action is necessary to avert the impending disaster.*