Group questions SRA’s production estimate

(Photo Courtesy of Partido Manggagawa)

By: Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) owes industry stakeholders and consumers an explanation for its 2019 production estimates, Tatak Kalamay (TK) said.

In a statement, TK said “records from SRA itself will show that, in the past four crop years, except for one, their estimates have been way off. This is very disconcerting since production estimates influence market forces and determine how SRA crafts its policies.”

TK spokesperson Raymond Montinola said the production estimates for crop year 2019-2020 was 2.096M metric tons (MT), which is 23,000 MT higher than last year’s actual production of 2.073M MT.

“This seeming penchant of SRA to overestimate production by huge margins instead of reflecting the realities on the ground is extremely harmful to the industry because these figures are also the bases for drafting sugar orders and in determining implementation of the importation program,” Montinola said.

Last year, SRA initially projected production at 2.225M MT, which is 152,000 MT higher than the actual production of 2.073M MT.

For crop year 2017-2018, production was seen at 2.380M MT against actual production of 2.083M MT, a difference of 297,000 MT.

In crop year 2015-2016, SRA’s estimated production was 2.270M MT, which is 32,000 MT less than the actual production of 2.238M MT.

The only exception was crop year 2016-2017, when production reached 2.500M MT, higher than SRA’s estimate of 2.250M MT.

“This was around the time when the issue of high fructose corn syrup affected the industry, sending prices spiraling downward,” Montinola said.

Joseph Edgar Sarrosa, also of Tatak Kalamay, noted that SRA had said in a recent statement that production declined slightly by 0.54 percent from last year, “belittling what that percentage in terms of income can spell for our small farmers.”

“The agency also claimed a reduction in area planted to sugarcane of 8,000 hectares, citing various reasons. This reduction means a reduction as well in production of about 600,000 bags of sugar. Yet this fact was clearly not inputted in this year’s production estimates,” Sarrosa added.

For crop year 2017-2018, sugar importation reached 488,000 MT while last year, it was at 250,000 MT.

Meanwhile, Clarence Ortiz, another convenor of Tatak Kalamay, said their group is joining other industry stakeholders in opposing the 5 percent US quota allocation.

This is around 100,000 metric tons, priced way below domestic sugar, he said.

“It may not look it to most, but a few hundred pesos’ difference in the price of each bag of sugar could be enough to spell hard times, or even disaster, for the small planters and agrarian reform beneficiaries who comprise more than 85 percent of sugar producers,” Ortiz said.

“They are the ones who have had to bear the brunt of the seemingly endless challenges the industry has faced over the last couple of years.”

Montinola also urged stakeholders to remain vigilant.

“Our battle is far from over,” he said, noting that beverage giant Coca Cola is again lobbying for a tax reduction that would allow them to go back to using HFCS.

“We are already drafting letters to allied senators to take a closer look into the business practices of Coca Cola. At the same time, we call on all stakeholders, including the consuming public, to close ranks against this giant that is clearly bent on destroying the sugar industry along with the millions of Filipinos who depend on it,” Montinola added.