Calls for sugar industry deregulation slammed

BACOLOD City – Industry stakeholders in Negros Occidental expressed their opposition after food processors have called for deregulation of country’s sugar importation policy.

Raymond Montinola, Confederation of Sugar Producers spokesman, said the lobby to liberalize sugar importation is being resurrected again through the food processors and manufacturers who comprise a miniscule market in terms of sugar usage.

Recently, the Philippine food producers and manufacturers called on the government to address the growing concern on the prohibitive cost of domestic sugar by deregulation.

Cited on a statement by Philippine Food Exporters Inc. president Roberto Amores “domestic processors are hurting and high cost of sugar in the local market is killing the local industry but favoring foreign competition.”

But Montinola claimed mill gate sugar prices have not increased drastically in the past months to warrant a labeling of prohibitive cost of domestic sugar.

“There are mechanisms in place set up by the Sugar Regulatory Administration to allow industrial users, including food processors, to prioritize their need,” he explained.

Montinola also suspected larger groups are behind this lobby and they will remain vigilant against this move to ensure that the sugar industry is protected.

“However, instead of doing so, they’d rather lobby via the media to call for direct importation, knowing that in so doing, over five million Filipinos who are directly and indirectly dependent on the sugar industry will suffer” he said.

Montinola added  the Sugar Industry Development Act  fund, intended for the modernization of the industry, has been reduced to P500 million, a fourth of what was initially P2 billion thus farmers are reduced to rely on traditional farming, not to mention the high cost of farm inputs and implements.

“Truth be told, food processors have been allowed in the past to directly import sugar for their needs, however, there have been instances that these imported sugar were eventually found sold in domestic market, making it technically sugar smuggling,” he stressed./PN


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