Flush out opportunists 

The true state of the agriculture sector, which has dragged economic growth for years, has been revealed in the connivance of Sugar Regulatory Administration and Department of Agriculture officials and some opportunistic businesses that were recently exposed.

The impact of manipulating the industry to induce massive importation reflected in the prices of commodities.

The price of refined sugar in retail stores hovers around P100 per kilogram compared to P60 just a few months ago.

The price of pandesal, the staple breakfast of Filipinos, doubled because of rocketing sugar and flour prices.

Very frustrating is the fact that government officials who were given authority to protect the interest of the people are trying to pull a fast one on President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Local sugar planters who were expecting to get assistance from SRA and DA as a result of the two-year impact of the pandemic on their operations were instead subjected to an unwarranted competition from a huge importation program.

The excuse was that imports were necessary to bring down the prices amid a supply shortage.

Subsequent events culminating in the raid of warehouses showed that the shortage was fabricated as practically mountains of the commodity are being withheld to justify importation.

Sugar producers said the government should continue the inspection of sugar storage facilities and mills, particularly in Bacolod City and Negros Occidental.

Recently raided by the Bureau of Customs were storehouses in Pampanga, Bulacan, and Zambales.

The outcome of the raids showed that the industry can get by until the new milling season without the need to import. That is a situation that militates against the pursuit of a fast buck among government officials.

Bottlers also wanted access to cheaper imports from Thailand, which is a further incentive for the opportunism of some public officials.

Since the industry was placed at peril with the importation racket, the government should run after those involved.

Stakeholders are asking for the filing of economic sabotage cases against the public officials and their cohorts, which they deserve.

Industry leaders said that the stockpile found in warehouses during the simultaneous swoop by government agents was merely the “tip of the iceberg.”

A tariff rate quota scheme with the United States also results to a ridiculous situation in which the country imports while also exporting sugar.

The industry has been asking the SRA to allow the conversion of the US allocations for local use to ease the shortage situation, but the agency insisted on importation.

Sugar Order 4 provided the importation of 250,000 metric tons of refined sugar and 100,000 metric tons of raw sugar that was initiated by resigned DA and SRA officials.

Overhauling the sugar industry would be a good starting point for President and Agriculture Secretary BBM to launch reforms in the agriculture industry to make it a driver of economic progress.

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