Major planters’ groups support gov’t action for stable sugar prices

By Nanette Guadalquiver

February 7, 2024, 8:06 pm

BACOLOD CITY – The United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED), the country’s largest independent sugar planters’ group, on Wednesday led the declaration of support for the intervention of the national government to reduce the farmgate prices of sugar.

UNIFED president Manuel Lamata, who is based in this city, issued the pronouncement in the wake of criticisms from other sugar groups, claiming that the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) is pushing for a new plan involving sugar importation.

“UNIFED, along with the Asociacion de Agricultores de la Carlota y Pontevedra Inc. (AALCPI), which remains the largest independent sugar planters’ group in the country, and Luzon Federation of Sugarcane Growers and Associations (LuzonFed), are in full support of the government intervention discussed with Department of Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel and SRA Administrator Pablo Azcona,” Lamata said in a statement.

He noted that in addition to the initial PHP5 billion buy-back local sugar scheme from the national government, a second program, where traders will purchase local sugar and these will be put on reserve that can be purchased by the national government, has also been introduced.

“There is no importation, contrary to their claims,” Lamata said.

The UNIFED president added that their group, among them sugar planter Miguel Hinojales, who handles one of the biggest sugar landholdings in the country, is “thankful to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. who listened and answered our appeal to help our farmers amidst declining sugar prices.”

Hinojales chairs the Negros Sugar Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative and is president of the Negros Sugar Farmers Association, Inc.

In separate statements, Hinojales, AALCPI president Roberto Cuenca, and LuzonFed’s Board led by president Cornelio Toreja endorsed the proposed draft of a sugar order discussed during the groups’ meeting with SRA representatives on Jan. 25.

It covers the limited volume purchase of locally produced sugar for reclassification to reserve sugar to avail of allocation for the next import program, “the intention of which is to uplift farmgate prices to a better and stable level while ensuring optimal retail prices,” they said.

The three groups had their own requests for SRA to allocate 20 percent to 30 percent of quedans (warehouse receipts) issued before the effectivity of the program so that the farmers could enjoy the benefits of the sugar order.

“Our farmers cannot wait any longer and we hope and pray that (the) government will fast track the implementation of this intervention, so we will no longer suffer (from) the declining prices of sugar,” Lamata said.

Current farmgate sugar prices range from PHP2,400 to PHP2,500 per 50-kg. bag in Negros, which are way below the price levels of PHP3,200 for the same period last year, according to UNIFED. (PNA)