By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) had sought interventions from the national government after the price of sugar dropped by P200 per 50-kilogram bag in the span of two weeks.
“We recently saw an abnormal price drop, in some cases as big as P200 in just two weeks, and before this gets worse, we are appealing for immediate intervention from the national government,” SRA Board Members Emilio Yulo and Roland Beltran said in a joint statement.
Yulo represents the planters in the SRA Board, while Beltran represents the sugar millers.
The two officials said Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) and other government financial insti-tutions must step in and provide quedan financing to the local sugar industry.
“We are afraid that the drastic drop in sugar prices will cause a disastrous effect in the long term period,” the SRA Board members said.
“We are still at the height of the milling season and with the good weather, many sugar producers are taking this opportunity to harvest their sugar canes but many are afraid that if the trend of prices col-lapsing will continue, the producers will not have anything left to even think of planting for the coming crop year,” they added.
Figures from Victorias Milling Company, one of the major sugar producers in the Philippines, showed that two weeks ago, sugar price was at the ₱1,560 to ₱1,580 per 50-kilogram bag. This week, the price fell to ₱1,375 per 50-kilogram bag, which is just equivalent to the cost of producing the sweetener.
Yulo and Beltran said vast majority of the industry’s stakeholders who are small planters and agrarian reform beneficiaries, which comprise about 92 percent of sugar producers, will not be able to survive this loss, especially during the national health crisis brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
According to them, LandBank, through the intercession of Agriculture Secretary William Dar, should immediately help address this issue through quedan financing at very minimal interest rates.
The other day, SRA pushed for the distribution of financial assistance for sugar mill workers that were displaced due to the lockdown placed over Luzon.
In a resolution signed by Yulo and Beltran, the agency’s management has been requested to draft and present a national COVID-19 plan within a week.
The plan, according to them, must include the allotment of fund for a ‘pantawid’ assistance for the thousands of displaced sugar mill workers to help them tide over the lockdown.
Because of the ECQ, which shutdown public transportation and established police checkpoints in various areas in the region, each sugar mill currently operates with only 25 percent of its workforce.
The word on the street is that SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica has not yet met with the SRA Board for the primary purpose of coming up with measures that would help the industry sector and its players cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Yulo and Beltran’s resolution is also pushing for the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPES), alcohols, and other disinfectants for the use of SRA frontliners as well as donation to centers and hospitals in the sugar producing areas.
The resolution also wants SRA to procure surgical masks for distribution to marginalized farmers, Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARB) communities, marginalized small farmers, and laborers.