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Sugar stakeholders say importation at start of milling season is ill-advised

Sugar industry stakeholders on Friday lauded President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s rejection of a proposed order to import 300,000 metric tons of sugar.

In a statement, the Asociacion de Agricultores de La Carlota y Pontevedra Inc. (AALCPI), the La Carlota Mill District Multi-Purpose Cooperative (LCMDMPC) and the United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) welcomed the scrapping of Sugar Order No. 4 (SO4).

On Wednesday, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said the President rejected  SO4

A day later, Cruz-Angeles called the order illegal, adding that an investigation is ongoing over the unauthorized signing of the document directing the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar on top of what had already been imported in May of this year.

“With the start of the milling season, the need to import additional sugar is ill advised,” AACLPI and LCMDMPC general manager David Alba said.

“We are thankful that President Marcos vetoed the order as five mills in Negros Occidental already resumed operations,” Alba added.

AACLPI and LCMDMPC are groups of sugar planters in Negros Occidental —the sugar capital of the Philippines.

Alba said that data from the Sugar Regulatory Administration showed that there are four million bags of sugar that entered the country through the SO3 import program, where the country imported 200,000 MT of refined sugar to augment a projected supply shortfall for the year

“However, this sugar is not being made available to Juan De La Cruz since they are in the bodegas of the industrial users,” he said.

“In order to address the perceived sugar supply shortage in the country, we are recommending to President Marcos to reverse the SRA order and instead, release this sugar for the benefit of the consumers and retailers,” Alba added.

For his part, United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) president Manuel Lamata also welcomed the President’s thumbs down of  SO4 and joined the call issued by Senator Imee Marcos to “revamp” the Department of Agriculture and the SRA amidst the investigation into the alleged illegality of the recent sugar order.

“We are joining the call of Senator [Imee] Marcos because it is very apparent already that these officials are not looking out for the interest of the industry,” Lamata said.

Senator Imee has urged Marcos to move the department’s top officials and “dismantle criminal syndicates within the government.”

“The fact that SO4 included importation of raw sugar when milling season has already started indicates these people governing the very agency that is supposed to protect us, are actually out to destroy us,” Lamata added.

UNIFED is the biggest sugar federation in the country while AALCPI is the biggest independent sugar association with a membership of 11,000 sugar farmers. — RSJ, GMA News