Sugar farmers proposing safety nets to go with easing of import process

PHILIPPINE STAR/MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

SUGAR producers are calling for “appropriate safety nets” as the government eases entry requirements for agricultural imports.

In a statement, the Sugar Council — composed of three planter federations — urged the government to pursue programs to raise the competitiveness of the sugar industry and the rest of Philippine agriculture.

“The removal of the (Sugar Regulatory Administration’s) import rules, including its (power to set) fees and charges, would amount to loss of regulatory authority and SRA revenue,” it said.

Administrative Order No. 20 (AO 20) instructed the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Finance, and Department of Trade and Industry to simplify the administrative procedures for agricultural imports, while removing non-tariff barriers.

Under AO 20, the SRA was instructed to streamline and standardize sugar import rules. It was also ordered to admit more traders into the sugar import program.

In a position paper, the council said the current rules of the SRA cannot be considered barriers to be removed.

“The integrity of SRA and its ability to perform its mandate must be preserved,” it said.

It added that AO 20 can open the floodgates to sugar imports “that will kill the domestic industry.”

The Sugar Council had recommended a sugar import program based on the SRA’s analysis of market conditions prior to the start of the milling season. Industry stakeholders must also be consulted.

It added that imports should be subject to a so-called “trigger point” for bringing supply and demand into balance via imports.

The council is composed of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations, Inc., the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, Inc., and the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers, Inc. — Adrian H. Halili