Halt importation, strengthen food security, sugar leaders urge gov’t

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BY MARCHEL P. ESPINA

The sugar industry leaders are calling on the government to stop importation, and instead, strengthen the country’s food security program.

“We, in the sugar industry, support the call of the United Broiler Raisers Association to the Department of Agriculture to put a halt on the importation program and address the disconnect of continued importation vis-à-vis the President’s call to strengthen food security,” a statement of industry leaders released yesterday showed.

The statement was signed by Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri Jr., president of Sugarcane Growers Association of Bukidnon Inc. and chairman emeritus of the Sugarcane Farmers of Bukidnon Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Roberto Cuenca – president of Asociacion de Agricultores de la Carlota y Pontevedra Inc., Pablo Luis Azcona – president of Kabankalan-Ilog Planters Association, and Edgardo Paulino Eugenio, an unaffiliated Isabela-Cagayan sugar farmer.

They pointed out that neighboring countries, like Vietnam and Thailand, are doubling their efforts to avoid dependency on importation of basic goods, while the country, on the other hand, has been discouraging the growth of certain industries to pave the way for more importation.

The most recent victim of this policy is the livestock industry that recently raised a howl over the pronouncement of the Bureau of Animal Industry that poultry growers should limit their production to make space for imports, they added.

“We too have been victims of unabated importation of sugar and other sweeteners in the past and we feel the urgency to call on the DA to strengthen local agriculture industries through well-meaning programs with the end view of improving productivity and self-sustainability,” they stressed.

They said the sugar industry is fortunate that even with the low demand for the commodity due to the pandemic, the perceived shortfall in the country’s annual consumption of sugar may even-out because of a slight increase in total production in the last crop year compared to previous years.

“However, when business is back-to-normal, we may again be subjected to unabated importation that has caused misery to the millions of industry stakeholders,” they claimed.

They said they believe that there is no better time than now to re-assess government programs and streamline regulatory requirements to hasten modernization of various agriculture industries.

“We need to put a stop in looking at importation as the only answer when the demand for supply is tight. We join the call for the DA to be more circumspect in their intervention measures, whether its oversupply or tightness in supply,” they stressed.

They also called on the government to have faith in the Filipino farmers to produce the agricultural goods that the country needs.*

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