FORMER Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri slammed sugar smuggling for being one of the major factors that dampen the sugar industry in the country.

He also hit the government and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) for having no clear plans on how to prepare and address the problems in the sugar industry.

Zubiri said the government, especially SRA, failed to have short-term, medium-term and long-term plans on how to prepare for the lowering of the tariffs on imported sugar.

"It's already late now because 2014 and 2015 when tariff on imported sugar goes down to zero percent is fast approaching," he said.

Zubiri cited the failure of the government to implement the Biofuels Law, which mandates an ethanol blend in gasoline, and the Renewable Energy Act, which he claimed could help the sugar industry to survive.

Both laws were sponsored by Zubiri when he was congressman and senator.

"We cannot afford to sacrifice millions of Filipinos who are dependent on sugar and are directly and indirectly affected by the problems that beset the industry. That's why the government should do something about it," Zubiri said.

He said the government should also crack down on sugar smuggling, which has adversely affected the local sugar industry.

The Bureau of Customs intercepted approximately P10 million worth of sugar from Thailand at the Cebu International Port last November 22.

The shipment was initially valued at P4 million but this was raised to P7 million. Cebu Customs District Collector Ronnie Silvestre pegged, however, the apprehended sugar shipment at P10 million based on the value of P2,000 per 50-kilo bag.

Each of the 10 container vans might contain approximately 500 bags of sugar, according to Silvestre.

"Smuggled sugar are sold to traders at only P900 per 50-kilo bag and are sold to the market at only P1,200 per 50-kilo bag. How can our farmers survive that? Are we prepared for that?" Zubiri added.

He said that at present, prices of fertilizers are even higher compared to sugar.

"Why is this happening? Because our government lacks clear policies and fail to push hard for alternative crops," he said.

Zubiri also said that ethanol is one way for the sugar industry to survive, adding he foresees the bioethanol plant in San Carlos City to survive when hard times come and sugar prices may drop to P900 per bag.

Our government shows complete lack of political will for the survival of the sugar industry, he stressed.

"For the sugar industry to survive, we need to shape up. We should modernize facilities and put alternative income for bioethanol and biomass," Zubiri said. (TDE)

source: sunstar

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