The Confederation of Sugar Producers’ Associations (Confed) Wednesday declared that there is no basis to import sugar, saying that there is sufficient supply in the market.

Alarmed that the importation is a done deal, Confed leaders stressed that the price movement in the market does not reflect the supply situation, explaining the adjustment is merely a reaction to the shifts in sugar prices in the world market.

Confed, the country's largest federation of sugar farmers, said that even if the situation deteriorates, imports should be planned and timed so as not to flood the local market with the commodity and thus force domestic prices to hit rock-bottom.

Confed president Federico Locsin III said milling is at its peak right now and that importing sugar at this time would not be to the interest of the industry.

Locsin explained that government must wait for the end of the milling season and allow the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to complete its inventory of sugar stocks before it entertains any plan to import the commodity.

For his part, former Confed president Reynaldo Bantug said producers are always open to talks with government and other stakeholders to ensure that the concerns of consumers are addressed.

“Time and again, the sugar industry has proven that it is sensitive to the needs of the people,” Bantug added.

However, he lashed out at Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila for his lack of sensitivity to the plight of sugar farmers and millers and deplored the latter's statement that the sugar industry should export its sugar produce when the prices are high and the government will just import.

“He was advised by the group to reach out to other government agencies and all concerned sector for consultation before issuing such baseless and irresponsible statements,” Bantug said.

Confed pointed out that for the past four years, the industry has suffered prices at product cost levels.

It added that the cost of fertilizer has skyrocketed in the past four years but the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) did not put a price cap on this. Prices of fuel, oil, lubricants, spare parts and tires have also dramatically increased and the sugar industry had to fend off for itself, Confed said.

Locsin announced that his group is ready, willing and able to sit down with the Department of Agriculture and other agencies to discuss the current situation.

“What we are making now will be used mostly to pay off our cost and our losses in the past crop years but this does not mean that the industry is not looking for sustainable prices that are adequately profitable to producers to offset their production cost so as not to sacrifice their business and means of livelihood and are fairly affordable to consumers,” Locsin revealed.

SRA board member and planters’ representative Jose Luis Tongoy stressed that precipitate talk about climate change and the El Niño phenomenon are creating havoc in the minds of authorities and certain market players, particularly food processors who want assurances that the projected long dry spell would reduce production and thus choke much-needed supplies.

SRA administrator Rafael Coscolluela has offered to sell the strategic reserve sugar (C-1) through the National Food Authority (NFA).

source: mb

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