Ne­gocc ARBS dis­ap­pointed over new DA exec’s stand on sugar lib­er­al­iza­tion

Sun Star Bacolod - - Business -

WHILE sugar in­dus­try stake­hold­ers ini­tially wel­comed the ap­point­ment of Wil­liam Dar as the new sec­re­tary of the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (DA), know­ing his na­ture to help the marginal­ized Filipinos, such per­cep­tion changed shortly upon his pro­nounce­ment that he is open to the pro­posal to lib­er­al­ize sugar im­por­ta­tion.

Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal Fed­er­a­tion of Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (Noffa) chair­man En­rique Tayo, in a state­ment, said he is “dis­ap­pointed to say the least about the pro­nounce­ment.”

Noffa is a big group of agrar­ian re­form ben­e­fi­cia­ries (ARBS) in south­ern Ne­gros.

Tayo said they were told that Dar is knowl­edge­able in agri­cul­ture and ought to know that lib­er­al­iz­ing sugar im­por­ta­tion will hurt par­tic­u­larly the small farm­ers.

“He has not even con­sulted stake­hold­ers and yet will make such an­nounce­ment al­ready know­ing that we have been op­pos­ing that move in the last cou­ple of years,” he said, adding that they al­ready saw the ef­fects of lib­er­al­iza­tion in the rice in­dus­try.

The group was alarmed when Philip­pine Food Ex­porters Inc. (Phil­foodex) pres­i­dent Roberto Amores an­nounced that the new agri­cul­ture chief is open to lib­er­al­ize sugar im­ports.

Also, Noffa wanted to be clar­i­fied on the role of Amores for making the state­ment ahead of the sec­re­tary.

“We all know who 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.

He said they are now more alarmed to hear from Dar 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,” he claimed.

Noffa is ap­peal­ing to Dar to re­view Amores’ ap­point­ment and “choose peo­ple who has the farm­ers’ in­ter­est and the agri­cul­ture’s future at heart.”

Ear­lier, Raymond Mon­ti­nola, spokesper­son of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Sugar Pro­duc­ers (Con­fed), the big­gest group of sugar farm­ers in the coun­try, said they also wel­come Dar.

It is because of his “pen­chant to help the poor Filipinos that strikes us the most as 85 per­cent of our pro­duc­ers are small farm­ers.”

“We be­lieve he (Dar) will pro­vide proper attention to the small farm­ers in­sur­ing them a more sustainabl­e livelihood,” Mon­ti­nola said.

With Dar’s open­ness to sugar im­por­ta­tion, he added 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 stake

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