Albay Representative Joey Salceda said Wednesday he favors the abolition of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), saying it is a “failed agency.”
At the same time, he raised caution against liberalizing the sugar industry as it would be detrimental to farmers.
“In its current form, the SRA must change or be abolished. It has not been very effective in its role of local industry development. Low utilization rates of SIDA and TRAIN Law funds have hounded that agency. It is certainly a failed agency, judging by the outcomes of its mandates,” Salceda said in a statement.
SIDA refers to the Sugarcane Industry Development Act, while the TRAIN law is the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion policy of the government.
Salceda, chairperson of the House ways and means committee, proposed the creation of a “more technical” panel to handle among others, sugar importation.
He said the panel should have representatives from the planters, millers, industrial users, consumer groups, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
“I would suggest that sugar industry programs be streamlined within the DA instead, as is consistent with the overall direction of President Bongbong Marcos to streamline agricultural support,” he added.
Salceda said the government must be circumspect in opening up the industry to foreign stocks, saying the flooding of imported sugar will hurt the farmers.
“As I warned before, we have to be circumspect about the liberalization of the sugar sector. A sudden influx will definitely hurt farmers — especially in this time of high fertilizer, fuel, and labor prices,” he said.
He said sugar production sector is among the most labor intensive sectors in the agriculture sector, needing 1.4 workers per hectare on average compared to 0.6 for rice, and 0.7 for the whole sector.
“The benefits to liberalization aren’t so clear cut in the direction of national welfare either. A NEDA report once indicated that it would hurt planters and millers by 57 percent of profits while benefiting consumers with 65 percent additional welfare,” he said.
Focus was trained at the SRA after it approved the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar, which the president nullified. This was followed by the resignation of several officials of the agency.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have initiated inquiries on the matter.—LDF, GMA News