Group opposes sugar importation

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – A convenor group here has expressed opposition to the planned importation of 450,000 metric tons of sugar by the government.

The Save the Sugar Industry Movement in Bacolod City said it will submit a position paper to the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) expressing its vehement opposition to the government’s plan to import 450,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar this year to protect the rights and welfare of the sugar workers.

SAVE-SIM lead convenor Wennie Sancho said the importation of about 450,000 MT of sugar sent chills down the spine of the stakeholders in the sugar industry.

“It will not only deregulate the sugar industry, but it will also remove quantitative restriction and protection of our sugar under the terms of the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA),” Sancho said.

Sancho claimed that the unregulated entry of subsidized imported sugar “will be disastrous to our sugar industry which contributes billions of pesos to our GDP, specifically to the 84,000 sugar farmers and 700,000 industrial workers across the 28 provinces of the country.”

“It will be detrimental to the farmers and farm workers and their families and to the rural communities that produce sugar. We express our vehement opposition against the importation of 450,000 MT of sugar, in order to protect the rights and welfare of the sugar workers,” the position paper said.

Sancho also pointed out that a Negros-based sugar producers association expressed opposition to what they called an “ill-timed” importation of 200,000 MT of refined sugar provided in Sugar Order No. 3 of the SRA on Feb 15, 2021.

“As a matter of fact, it was announced that the Regional Trial Court Branch 73 in Sagay City, Negros Occidental had issued a 20-day TRO against the sugar imports set to arrive starting March 1, 2021,” the position paper said.

The said association “has shown to the satisfaction of the Court that grave and irreparable injury would result at SRA Sugar Order No. 3.”

Another RTC branch in Himamaylan City issued a TRO against the Duterte Administration’s move to allow the importation of 200,000 MT of sugar.

RTC Branch 65 extended on Feb 17, 2022 the earlier 72-hour TRO to 20 days to prevent irreparable damage to sugar farmers who asked the court for a more permanent injunction

Sancho said that sugar importation would bring injustice, untold irreparable damage, and losses to the sugar industry.

However, this sugar producer’s group manifested on Jan 19, 2023 that they backed the government’s plan to import 450,000 MT of sugar this year.

“Isn’t it confusing? They are now singing a different tune, the sugar planters call the 450,000 MT import plan an “acceptable volume for a buffer stock amid speculation that there may be a shortage by the end of the milling season,” the position paper said.

“While we recognize the need for imports and a sugar buffer stock, we should know the actual and projected production and consumption figures for this crop year,” Sancho said.

Sugar imports should be calibrated in volume and timed to arrive after the close of the milling so that it does not depress milling prices that would be grossly disadvantageous to the sugarcane farmers, he pointed out.