Molasses importation opposed

Published August 20, 2021, 3:27 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) is opposing the proposed molasses importation of the Ethanol Producers Association of the Philippines’ (EPAP).

In a statement, UNIFED President Manuel Lamata said this proposal by EPAP was already thumbed down by members of the Bioethanol Consultative Board (BCB) last month, yet the group has found ways to raise the issue up through the House Committee on Energy, chaired by Representative Juan Miguel Arroyo.

Lamata said he was glad that the BCB stood pat on their decision to oppose the importation of molasses, especially at this time when milling season is about to start.

Molasses is one of the by-products of the local sugar industry. In the Philippines, A sugar crop year starts in September and ends in August of the following year.

According to UNIFED, it is likely that BCB’s position will be adopted by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) and will be submitted to the Department of Energy and to Arroyo.

In their letter to Arroyo, EPAP sought the reconsideration of the National Biofuel Board to “allow the importation of molasses equivalent to the deficit in the supply volume of locally produced molasses required for the utilization of the full bioethanol production capacity of the industry.”

However, Nicolas Kramer, UNIFED’s Vice President and Chief of Operations, who represented Lamata at the consultative meeting, said “practically everyone opposed the importation idea because we have more than 270,000 metric tons (MT) of molasses on stock which can be procured by ethanol producers.”

Lamata said that based on last crop year’s data, supply reached 1.3 million MT and demand was only at 1.098 million metric tons “so there is no truth to EPAP’s claim of deficit in supply.”

“We are already reeling from the effects of COVID-19 and we need to embrace the thrust of the national government to buy local as our way to help boost the economy, and here is EPAP pushing for importation again,” he said.

“They [EPAP] should support the local industry. If storage is their problem, EPAP should invest in building large storage tanks where they can keep their local molasses during milling season,” Lamata further said.

Lamata also called on the rest of the BCB and the SRA to “remain vigilant” even if EPAP has been made aware of the board’s decision as they may find another venue again to lobby for molasses importation.

Members of the BCB include representatives from six sugar federations, EPAP, the Philippine Sugar Millers Association, the Philippine Independent Millers Association, the Philippine Sugar Technologists Association and the Department of Agriculture.