More sugar imports will not taper prices; DA, MAV advisory council making economic missteps with unbridled importation — KMP

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said it is imperative to challenge the decision of the MAV advisory council to import another 64,050 metric tons of refined sugar in response to the prevailing high retail prices in the domestic market.

“Importation as an instant solution to high prices is undoubtedly an economic misstep. We have proved this with the Rice Liberalization Law with the massive importation of other agricultural products such as onion, garlic, and vegetables,” according to KMP.

The sugar importation proposal, endorsed by the Department of Agriculture MAV Advisory Council, was recently approved by President and concurrent agriculture Secretary Marcos Jr. DA Memorandum Order No. 77 was issued last December 20 to convene the MAV council and expedite the importation order.

“Hastening the entry of imported refined sugar into the domestic market will not stabilize its selling prices. Sugarcane milling season is at its peak from November to December. Why import during the milling season? Who decided on this and for whose benefit?” asks KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos.

MAV or Minimum Access Volume refers to the volume of a specific agricultural product that can be imported with a lower tariff. MAV is a commitment of the PH government as a member of the World Trade Organization.

September each year marks the start of the milling season in the sugar industry, which also signals the beginning of a new crop year. For the incoming milling season, the crop year is set from Sept. 1, 2022, to Aug. 31, 2023, as set by the Sugar Regulatory Administration.

“There are many factors affecting high sugar prices. High cost of production is one and this should be decisively addressed by the DA and Malacanang,” according to Ramos as he reiterated the need to further lower the cost of fuel, fertilizer, truck parts, and equipment, among others that are involved in the sugar production chain. “Sugar workers and seasonal farm workers or sacadas have been bearing the brunt of stalled wages and lacking benefits. Sila ang totoong nagsasakripisyo sa mataas na presyo ng asukal,” the KMP leader added.

KMP said inflation in sugar as well as in other agricultural products can be addressed by strengthening and increasing local production and providing necessary production support to farmers and planters. “DA should change its name to Department of Angkat as it knows only importation as the default solution to all problems.”

Negros region in Visayas produces about 60 percent of the country’s total sugar output. There are 13 sugar mills and six refineries in the region. KMP also noted that in the past decade, lands devoted to sugar production have dropped from 423,000 hectares to 399,000 hectares as a result of land-use conversion. ###

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