‘Nothing political, purely survival,’ sugar stakeholders assert

April 12, 2022 by No Comments

“THERE is nothing political about our stance, this is purely survival of the sugar industry.”This was the statement of sugar industry stakeholders in response to Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) chief Hermenegildo Serafica’s statement that the issue on sugar importation has become “very political” after a draft proposal of Sugar Order 4 (SO4) was made known to the public. Former SRA board member lawyer Dino Yulo said Serafica is “clearly missing the point,” pointing out that there is no politics involved in our opposition to SO4, but the survival of the sugar industry.“Obviously amidst the prevailing circumstances wherein fertilizers and fuel costs are soaring, Serafica should not expect planters to take these sitting down especially when it is very clear that the new sugar order will benefit a particular sector, in this case, the industrial users and the bottlers’ group,” he said in a statement Tuesday, April 12.Stakeholders claimed that SO4 seeks to import 350,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar.Of the volume, 250,000 MT will be refined sugar, 150,000 MT of premium grade or bottlers’ grade refined sugar, and the remaining 100,000 MT will be raw sugar.Yulo said “any hint of sugar importation rumor, especially in such quantity and allocation, is prone to a price drop as evidenced in the previous release of Sugar Order No. 3 which fortunately was halted by the courts.”The planter explained that a week before SO3 was issued, there was an immediate price drop of P30 to 40 per bag of sugar.When it was published, “the drop in sugar prices ranged between P150-200 per 50-kilo bag,” he added.SRA Board Member lawyer Rolly Beltran, who has not signed the draft proposal, also questioned why the importation program is being limited to a particular class of importers.“Why not make the importation program all inclusive? Why not allow the major stakeholders to participate in the importation program rather than to a select few, favouring a particular class of importers to the prejudice of the sugar industry as well as the economy in general,” Beltran asked.He added that, “it is my position that the sugar importation program should be made available equitably to major stakeholders and to benefit the sari-sari stores, wet markets, groceries, supermarkets, and the like. These are the vulnerable sectors of our society that are principally affected by the rising prices of sugar.”Enrique Tayo, of the Negros Occidental Federation of Farmers Association, the other group that filed a case against the previous sugar order, said “there is nothing political in our move to question the draft SO4 because our claims are factual and have legal basis, and no such political considerations.”Yulo also reiterated that the planters have no qualms about importation.“But it should not be exclusive to industrial users and must be justifiable to dispel doubts. Serafica should not use prevailing prices affecting domestic consumers as a smokescreen when they are clearly not going to directly benefit from this new sugar order,” Yulo said.“He [Serafica] should make the importation all inclusive and allow stakeholders to participate in the importation program rather than making it exclusive to a particular sector to the prejudice of the majority of stakeholders,” he added. (PR)