Vice President Leni Takes on Sugar Industry Concerns

Vice-President Leni Robredo at the meeting with the sugar associations, discussing industry concerns * Nic Ledesma / CCN photo

Vice-President Leni Robredo directly addressed five key concerns of the sugar industry during a meeting with representatives of the sugar industry on November 5 in Bacolod City.

Robredo, in the signed message she released yesterday, said the Sugar Regulatory Administration must be aligned with its new roles mandated by the Sugar Industry Development Act or the AIDS Act.

Robredo also took note of the need for the industry to make better and faster use of the sugar industry development fund, as provided for in the AIDS law.

The law, she noted, “provides a valuable and timely mechanism to strengthen the industry, and it should be maintained. But, ”she stressed,“ the industry must be able to use the funds in a more timely and appropriate manner in order for the intended benefits to be achieved.

Robredo also urged the agency to fight for a level playing field to counter import liberalization, stressing the need for the government to find measures to make Philippine agriculture world-class and competitive.

The Vice President also addressed other related issues such as milling efficiency, labor shortage, rising production costs and soaring fertilizer prices and stressed that support for Strengthening the sugar industry is within reach with the enactment of the AIDS law.

LIBERALIZATION OF IMPORTS

Robredo recognized that local food producers and the agricultural sector in general are often put in competition with subsidized imports.

“Leaving aside questions about our international trade commitments for now,” she said, “your call for carefully calibrated sugar imports is in line with our position that Filipino farmers should benefit from a policy. adequate and appropriate and other supportive measures to make agriculture profitable while meeting the country’s food security needs, resulting in food available, affordable and safe for all Filipinos. ”

LAND REFORM

Robredo learned about the apprehensions in some industry circles about land reform, and the failures and shortcomings of the program, particularly in its inability to provide adequate and timely support services to land reform beneficiaries or to land users. ARB, to make them economically viable Farmers.

But she also spoke of the program’s successes and the need for the government to replicate those gains, specifically citing the SRA’s block farming program started by former administrator Gina Martin.

“The experiences – both successes and failures – can be very instructive in designing approaches that will work in sugarcane production,” she said.

SUGAR ROADMAP

Robredo said she is aware that the sugar sector today faces serious challenges, noting that the industry has yet to meet its targets of reaching 70-75 tonnes of cane per hectare and a purity 2.0 LKg per ton of cane (Lkg / TC).

The vice president noted that the industry is experiencing labor shortages, both for cultivation and harvesting, as well as an increase in production costs, an increase in fertilizer prices, an increase in transportation costs, continued demand for higher wages, and unaffordable equipment and maintenance costs.

“(Local) sugar prices are under pressure from sugar imports. Sweets are also in dispute. The milling efficiency is comparatively low and the transportation costs to get the canes to the mills increase. Due to the overcapacity of milling in some areas, particularly in Negros, competition for cane supply can approach fierce levels, ”she said.

The solutions are in order, “Robredo stressed, but added that” you have all the talent the industry needs to map out and follow a viable course of action. “*

Rachel J. Bradford