Philippines Set Sugar Industry Globally-Competitive

Philippines aim to set the target for global sugar industry competition by using the Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA). This is to promote the competitiveness of the sugarcane industry, maximize the utilization of sugarcane resources, and increased efficiency of sugar mills forasmuch the import liberalization.

According to assistant secretary Antonio Joselito Lambino II said “the Department of Finance (DOF) wants to learn more about the sugar industry and understand their concerns to make it globally-competitive. That’s the goal, that we’re able to compete with our neighbors,” Lambino told reporters during his visit at the mill district here on January, together with Senator Cynthia Villar.

The two officials were hosted by Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) Board Member Emilio Yulo III and the officials of Asociacion de Agricultores de La Carlota y Pontevedra Inc. (AALCPI) led by president Roberto Cuenca. Villar, who chairs the Senate committee on agriculture, reiterated the need for the sugar industry to be globally-competitive since the imports liberalization will take place in just a matter of time. Given the global competition, Villar said the industry should also focus on the developmental aspect funded under the Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA).

However, since the PHP2-billion allocation under the law has not been fully utilized, the funding has been reduced by the Department of Budget and Management to PHP500 million this year, she said. Villar pushed for the creation of the national sugar program to be supervised by the Department of Agriculture to ensure that the industry development fund will be fully utilized.

Of the PHP2 billion annual fund, PHP1 billion is allocated for infrastructure for farm-to-mill roads; PHP300 million for credit; PHP100 million for scholarships: PHP300 million for block farm of the land reform beneficiaries; and PHP300 million for shared facilities program even though November last year, the Senate unanimously approved Resolution 213 urging the Executive Department not to pursue the planned liberalization of the sugar industry to safeguard the welfare of sugar farmers and industry workers in more than 20 provinces in the country.

Senator Cynthia Villar (right) with Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino in a press conference on January, 2020.

The government was forced to import 250,000 MT of refined sugar last year to augment domestic supply as local output was insufficient to meet domestic demand, particularly that of industrial users like food exporters and beverage makers. Some 170,000 MT of imported refined sugar are still in local warehouses, per Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) data.

They does not have an estimate for the country’s total sugar requirement but foreign agencies like the United States Department of Agriculture pegged Philippine consumption at around 2.3 MMT, while some industry players said it is at 2.5 MMT. Eastern Visayas’s raw sugar production is expected to rise by 4 percent to 46,742 metric tons while output in Panay may reach 136,547 MT, 3.04 percent higher than the 132,515 MT it produced in the previous crop year. Nonetheless, industry sources said there have been no dramatic spikes in sugar demand due to the slowdown in economic activities, which they attributed to the impact of Covid-19.

SIDA or Republic Act 10659, which was enacted in 2015, could become the key role in Philippines sugar industry. This can promote the competitiveness of the sugarcane industry, improve the incomes of farmers and farmworkers, through improved productivity, product diversification, job generation, and increased efficiency of sugar mills.

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