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Sugar farmers in NegOcc applaud the prohibition against imports.

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines โ€“ Sugar sector representatives in Negros Occidental have applauded a court decision in their favor, which would prevent the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) from importing 200,000 metric tons of refined sugar for industrial usage beginning this month.

The United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED), the country’s largest association of sugar producers with over 30,000 member-planters, released a copy of Executive Judge Reginald Fuentebella of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 73 in Sagay City’s order dated Feb. 24, 2022, on Monday night.

In the six-page ruling, the judge stated, “(A) writ of a preliminary injunction is hereby issued enjoining the defendant SRA to cease and desist from implementing Sugar Order No. 3, series of 2021-2022, and to maintain the status quo to be effective until the termination of this case unless earlier lifted.”

UNIFED president Manuel Lamata hailed the decision as a “success” for the organization, thanking the court for hearing their case.

“This decision just confirms that the industry was correct and the SRA was incorrect,” he continued.

Sugar farmers from Negros Occidental, the country’s biggest sugarcane-producing province, have spearheaded the charge against SRA’s Sugar Order No. 3, describing it as “ill-timed” because it enables imports during the milling season, which has already resulted in a sharp drop in sugar prices.

The complaint against the SRA was brought on behalf of the Rural Sugar Planters Association Inc. by UNIFED director Joseph Edgar Sarrosa, who underlined that they are not against the importation in and of itself.

“We’ve been advocating for adequate consultation and a calibrated importation scheme that benefits everyone, not just a specific industry,” he said.

On February 11, the RTC Branch 73 granted a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO), declaring that Sarrosa’s organization “has proved to the satisfaction of this court that the implementation of SRA Sugar No. 3 will result in grave and irreparable injury.”

“The magnitude of the potential injury cannot be understated,” the judge said in the TRO, “since the sugar business, directly and indirectly, influences the lives of roughly three million Filipinos.”

According to Sugar Order No. 3, imported refined sugar is slated to arrive between March 1 and May 1 to benefit industrial users, who include the country’s leading food and beverage producers.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar previously stated that statistics from the Philippine Statistics Authority supports the decision to import specific agricultural goods such as sugar.

He went on to say that the Philippines has a good supply of food, with the exception of sugar, which will be in short supply in the first and second quarters of 2022.

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