Imports kill sugar makers — Ejercito

The government’s tendency to import whenever there’s a shortage in the supply of a basic commodity had stunted the growth of local industries.

In the sugar sector, a development program designed to revive the plantations have failed because of the importation habit, according to Sen. JV Ejercito.

“I passed two laws strengthening our sugar industry. In 2015, one of the very first laws that I was able to pass was the Sugarcane Industry Development Act and the Anti-Agriculture Smuggling Law in 2016,” he explained.

Ejercito said he pushed for the twin measures since he knew that the sugar industry is suffering.

“SIDA was intended to revitalize and stimulate the industry not only in Negros but all sugarcane producing provinces,” the veteran legislator told Daily Tribune.

Ejercito added the law against smuggling was passed because illegal products entering the country were very rampant.

“With these two measures, the sugar industry had a chance of being revived but unfortunately the Sugar Regulatory Administration was issuing authority to import left and right.

“They are so used to importation right now that the local industry suffered,” Ejercito said.

Ejercito said: “I am very frustrated as one of the authors of SIDA and the principal author of the anti-agricultural smuggling act.”

The senator lamented that both laws in tandem could have helped revitalize the sugarcane industry which had deteriorated due to the rash of imports.

Financing offered

SIDA aimed to provide low-cost loans to local producers.

“Most of our sugar mills are more than 50, 60, or 70 years old. So they are inefficient, they cost so much to run,” he said.

The program did not achieve its aim since the P2 billion yearly fund allotted for the development of the sugarcane industry and modernize the farming methods was underutilized because of too much importation.

“Traders were so used to just importing instead of producing, so that program failed to gain traction,” he explained.

Since the fund was not fully utilized, the P2 billion was reduced to about P700 million, which was too bad,” he noted.

I am very frustrated as one of the authors of SIDA and the principal author of the anti-agricultural smuggling act.

“After seven years since SIDA was implemented, had it been prioritized instead of importation, new modern sugar mills should have been running, sugar farming methods are already mechanized, and cost of sugar production would have been cheaper and competitive already,” Ejercito added.

He felt bad that “it all went to waste because of reliance to importation and failure to stop smuggling.”

Ejercito added that he hopes the new SRA officials would not depend on imports and instead prioritize helping local farmers.

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