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SRA is being urged by NegOcc producers to reconsider sugar imports.

The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has been asked by producers in Negros Occidental, the country’s top sugar-producing province, to reconsider its order allowing the importation of 200,000 metric tons during the milling season.

On Wednesday, the United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) and Asociacion de Agricultores de La Carlota y Pontevedra Inc. (AALCPI) issued separate statements opposing the move outlined in the agency’s Sugar Order No. 3, which was ostensibly designed to stabilize rising sugar prices and expected low productivity in sugar-producing areas hit by Typhoon Odette.

“SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica issued an order without consulting stakeholders in the business. In a statement, AALCPI president Roberto Cuenca said, “We were never informed, and yet he knows we are the largest group in terms of membership, and we are mostly small sugar farmers.”

AALCPI is the largest sugar bloc in Negros Island, with about 10,000 members.

Cuenca said that the importation order was “ill-timed” and would have “disastrous consequences for the sugar business, particularly among small sugar farmers.”

“He (Serafica) understands that we are in the middle of milling season, and any importation order now will have a rippling effect,” he said, adding that if their petition is ignored, the AALCPI will not hesitate to join protests with other sugar federations.

SRA’s view on the necessity to import sugar now to ensure a balance between supply and demand and stabilize prices has been disregarded by Cuenca, who claims that SRA has not even addressed their concerns about the high cost of farm inputs since last year.

The volume of importation is “too large and surely should not have been permitted at this time,” according to the AALCPI, and the “SRA should reassess the time and volume of sugar importation.”

“We were told that the majority of the producers SRA approached agreed to an importation order, but only in 50,000 metric ton increments and that it would be executed by the end of the milling season,” Cuenca added.

Meanwhile, the UNIFED, the country’s largest sugar producers’ federation with over 30,000 members, questioned the SRA’s present importing strategy.

UNIFED President Manuel Lamata remarked, “It is deplorable that the very agency that is supposed to protect us appears intent to crush the sector.”

The SRA and the Department of Agriculture (DA), according to Lamata, have not been contacted, and while certain planters’ groups have agreed to the importation scheme, they expected the SRA and the DA to “provide in exchange, fertilizer subsidies at the very least.”

“It’s quite aggravating for SRA to prioritize this import order when it hasn’t even responded to our request to persuade the DA and the Department of Trade and Industry to set a price ceiling on fertilizers since last year,” he added.

The issue of Sugar Order No. 3 was “extremely ill-timed,” according to former SRA board member Emilio Bernardino Yulo, a Negrense.

“We’re still dealing with a crisis.” Our sugar planters in southern Negros are still recovering from the effects of ‘Odette,’ and now we are facing yet another crisis. “We hope SRA reconsiders and amends the order,” Yulo said.

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