BACOLOD CITY: Faced with threats from cheaper imported sugar substitutes like the high fructose corn syrup, local sugar producers were challenged by Sen. Cynthia Villar to be more competitive.
Speaking during Farmers’ Day in Bago City, Negros Occidental, Villar said local producers “should strive to get ahead” to overcome the challenges to the sugar industry.
“I will support anything that will help the sugar industry,” she added.
Villar, co-chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, pointed out that the Sugarcane Industry Development Act of 2015 which she co-authored “was passed to help address any problem the sugar producers are facing — including the high fructose corn syrup.”
She said the law which provides a P2-billion [annual]budget for the industry was approved in anticipation of the “age of liberalization.”
The allocation was intended for infrastructure, mechanization, research and development and education of sugarcane farm workers’ children.
She said the amount must be used to empower the producers to set products at a low cost, adding that the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has a budget to improve the industry.
Villar expressed support to the proposed investigation into the importation and use of HFCS. Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Richard Gordon have sought a Senate inquiry into the impact of the HFCS on the domestic sugar industry and the need to review government policies on the importation of the sweetener.
Bacolod City Rep. Greg Gasataya and other representatives from Negros Island and other sugar-producing provinces also sought similar action at the House.
Sugar industry leaders claimed the massive importation of HFCS threatens the financial viability of the local sugar industry.
Meanwhile, the SRA has issued guidelines on the issuance of clearance for release of imported HFCS out. (See related story in Section B2)
Under the Sugar Order dated February 17, 2017, the SRA disclosed that an importer or consignee of imported HFCS must be an international trader duly-registered with the SRA at the time of the application for clearance for release.
Applicants for the release of imported HFCS and chemically pure fructose must submit requirements to the Regulation Department of SRA in Quezon City (Metro Manila) for processing.
The clearance for the release shall indicate the classification of the fructose as “B” for domestic market, “C” for reserved, and “D” for world market.
Non-compliance with the provisions of the Sugar Order shall subject the importer or consignee to the penalties provided under Sugar Order No. 10, series of 2009-2010, as amended by Sugar Order No. 10-A, series of 2009-2010, without prejudice to any other administrative and/or legal action that SRA may pursue.