BACOLOD CITY -- The United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines (UNIFED) on Thursday asked President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to reconsider the importation of 64,050 metric tons of refined sugar while the milling season is ongoing to protect local sugar farmers.

“We are appealing to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to halt this importation of refined sugar through the MAV (minimum access volume) until the results of a post-assessment of sugar stocks after the end of the milling season can be conducted,” UNIFED president Manuel Lamata said in a statement.

He added that there is no need to import sugar for now since the industry is "at the peak of harvest" and there are "abundant stocks of raw and refined sugar."

The country's biggest alliance of sugar producers, which is based in this city of Negros Occidental, the top sugar-producing province, made the appeal after Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban released Memorandum Order 77 on Wednesday, stating that the President, who is the concurrent Agriculture Secretary, ordered the department to "take action and to stabilize sugar prices" after a 38-percent price increase in November.

In the memo, Panganiban ordered the immediate convening of the MAV Advisory Council and expedite the importation of 64,050 metric tons of refined sugar.

Lamata clarified though that UNIFED is "not against importation per se", but pointed out that "to do it now will be disastrous to our local sugar farmers.”

He noted that in the past three weeks mill gate prices of sugar have actually gone down.

"If this further goes down with the entry of imported sugar, the sugar farmers will be facing a double whammy," Lamata said. (PNA)