Sugar group calls for stricter measures vs cartels, traders

(From left) Tatak Kalamay convenors Raymond Montinola, Paulo Severino, Gerardo Locsin, Dave Alba and SRA administrator Dino Yulo. (Dolly Yasa)

By: Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – A multi-sectoral organization of the country’s sugar industry called on the national government to implement stricter measures against cartels and traders.

Raymond Montinola Tatak Kalamay convenor said “The presence of cartels and middlemen has long been a problem of the industry as it has a disastrous effect on sugar prices which directly impacts us, sugar producers.”

Montinola was reacting to the statement of Socio-economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia “blaming the cartel system for the high prices of sugar.”

Pernia said many people were involved in the trading of the staple and must be investigated.

“I think there are too many handlers, too many middlemen involved in the process,” he added.

Pressed to comment on the Senate’s request to defer the liberalization of the sugar industry, Pernia agreed that the government need not fully deregulate it.

“Well, we’ll probably do it slowly. We’ll try other steps first. If they succeed, then there may be no need for full-scale liberalization,” he said.

Last week, senators asked President Rodrigo Duterte, through Resolution 213, “not to pursue the planned liberalization,” saying it would negatively affect sugar farmers and industry workers in 20 provinces.

Montinola said it “is an issue of enforcement and we join the call for stricter measures to control such and serious prosecution of those caught.”

Wennie Sancho, convenor of Save the Sugar Industry Movement, said that “Probably Sec. Pernia is right, it is the sugar traders and cartels that were responsible for the increase of domestic or table sugar in the groceries and supermarkets.”

“The small farmers and producers have nothing to do and do not profit from it. While sugar liberalization is put on hold, we should be vigilant,” he pointed out.

Sancho said “It is not a time to rejoice because this is only temporary for now.”