BACOLOD CITY –The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) have convened sugar industry leaders to tackle government’s plan to buy sugar directly from the farmers at a premium price amid the continuing low farmgate prices, usually between P2,400 and P2,500 per 50-kilo bag.
In a statement on Sunday, SRA Administrator Pablo Azcona said that he, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. and Philippine International Trading Corp. president and chief executive officer Undersecretary Emmie Liza Perez-Chiong met with sugar federation leaders, millers, farmers and traders at the DA central office in Quezon City on Friday.
“It was a momentous event as the last time industry stakeholders sat down together was probably eight years ago. We hope this will be the beginning of a unified industry that openly communicates and supports each other,” Azcona said.
Those who attended the meeting were leaders of the United Sugar Producers Federation, Confederation of Sugar Producers Association Inc., National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, Luzon Federation of Sugarcane Growers and Associations, Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers Inc., Philippine Sugar Millers Association, Philippine Association of Sugar Refiners, and groups of sugar farmers and traders.
They helped in crafting the mechanics of the government participating in buying the sugar produce, the SRA chief said. “We also discussed steps to be taken to further enhance productivity and profitability, ensure stability of sugar supply for consumers and industrial users, better retail prices and keeping in mind that the sugar farmer is also a retail consumer,” he added.
Azcona did not provide details yet on the buying schedule and the purchase price, but pointed out that “bringing all our sugar leaders to sit in one table and discuss together the state of the industry has not happened in such a long time.”
“This is a sign that the industry is united in finding solutions to improve the plight of the sugar farmer, who, in reality, is the most important link in the sugar supply chain. Without the farmer, the mills have nothing to grind, traders have nothing to trade and the consumers and industries will have no sugar for their needs,” he said.
In a press briefing here last month, Azcona disclosed the government’s plan to buy sugar directly from farmers to prop up farmgate prices and lower retail prices at the same time after the sugar producers’ federations sought intervention from Laurel and President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. as the farmgate prices of sugar plummeted since the start of the milling season in September.
The price of P3,000 per 50-kilo bag is considered a fair market price, but farmgate prices are still only between P2,400 and P2,500, particularly in Negros, the country’s sugar capital.
Azcona acknowledged the continued trust in and support of the President and the DA chief to the SRA, adding that he is optimistic “the cooperation from all industry stakeholders will be the key towards a positive growth of the industry.”
“I thank President Marcos and Secretary Laurel for keeping their commitment to help the industry, particularly the sugar farmers,” he added. (Nanette Guadalquiver/PNA)