Stakeholders disappointed over new DA chief’s stand on sugar liberalization
While sugar industry stakeholders initially welcomed the appointment of William Dar as the new Agriculture Secretary, knowing his nature to help the marginalized Filipinos, that perception changed overnight upon his pronouncements that he is open to the proposal to liberalize sugar importation.
In a statement, Enrique Tayo, chairman of the Negros Occidental Federation of Farmers Assn. (NOFFA), a big group of agrarian reform beneficiaries in Southern Negros, said he is “disappointed to say the least about this announcement.”
Tayo added that they were told that Dar is knowledgeable in agriculture and ought to know that liberalizing sugar importation will hurt small farmers in particular.
“He has not even consulted stakeholders and yet will make such an announcement already knowing that we have been opposing that move in the last couple of years and seeing the effects of such in our rice industry,” Tayo said.
They were also alarmed when Roberto Amores of Philippine Food Exporters, Inc. (Philfoodex) announced that Dar is open to liberalize sugar imports and meant to ask the new DA Secretary for clarification as to the role of Amores in stating such ahead of Dar.
“We all know who Bobby Amores is. He has been lobbying for sugar importation, allegedly for the survival of his group when we know that their requirement is not huge enough and can be supplied by the domestic market,” Tayo said.
“We are now more alarmed to hear from Dar himself that he is appointing Amores to head the DA’s Secretary Technical Advisory Group (STAG). Amores’ appointment is a clear indication as to how this issue on sugar importation will go and we are appealing to Secretary Dar to review this appointment and choose people who has the farmers’ interest and the agriculture’s future at heart,” he added.
Earlier, Raymond Montinola, spokesperson of the Confederation of Sugar Producers (Confed), the biggest group of sugar farmers in the country, said that they welcome Dar because of his “penchant to help the poor Filipinos that strikes us the most as 85 percent of our producers are small farmers.”
With Dar’s openness to sugar importation, Montinola said that “while imports are no longer avoidable due to the industry’s inability to meet domestic demand, these imports must henceforth be calibrated on the basis of a careful analysis of projected production versus demand, and in consultation with industry stakeholders.”