Sugar sector slams government team over imports

Published by rudy Date posted on February 6, 2019

by Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star), Feb 6, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The local sugar industry has slammed anew the government’s economic team for pushing for the liberalization of sugar imports.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the economic team has made a “collegial stand” to allow the liberalization of sugar imports amid high prices of the commodity.

“It is alarming to note that this decision to liberalize sugar importation stemmed from a collegial body which means all economic planners are into this,” said Emilio Yulo, SRA board member for the planters side.

Yulo said that even Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol “who publicly came out with his support to the industry” is part of the team that lobbied against the liberalization of sugar imports.

“Unless, of course, he (Piñol) was intentionally left out in that meeting where they decided the fate of the sugar industry,” Yulo said.

Sugar producers have long been urging the country’s economic team to monitor the price of retail sugar and find out the cause of the high prices.

Several local government units of sugar-producing provinces also came out with a manifesto opposing the proposal.

Confederation of Sugar Producers Association (CONFED) spokesperson Raymond Montinola said the industry stands united against the proposal to prevent the collapse of the industry.

“We have barely recovered from the high fructose corn syrup issue and here we are again being targeted by the economic managers,” he said.

Stakeholders earlier said the planned liberalization of the industry would not benefit the local consumers as the prices of end-products of processors would not exactly be lowered and would only be advantageous to industrial users.

The sugar industry contributes an estimated P96 billion to the national economy from the sale of raw sugar, refined, molasses, and ethanol and P5 billion in value-added tax payments on refined sugar.

It employs 720,000 workers in 20 sugar-producing provinces, where 82,000 farmers, mostly agrarian reform beneficiaries and small farmers, depend on it for livelihood.

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