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Food processors ask govt to fast-track deregulation of PHL sugar industry.

The higher cost of local sugar is making it doubly difficult for Philippine food processors to compete with their counterparts in Southeast Asia, exporters said over the weekend.

The Philippine Food Exporters Inc. (Philfoodex) called on the government to expedite efforts to liberalize the sugar trade industry. Authorities, it said, should address the long-standing concern on the prohibitive cost of local sugar by deregulating the industry and allowing the open importation of the staple.

Philfoodex President Roberto C. Amores said in a statement that small firms are most affected by the import restriction, as it makes them less competitive in the region.

'Our domestic processors, comprised mostly of small entrepreneurs, are really hurting from Asean competition. The high cost of sugar in the local market is killing the local industry, but favoring foreign competition,' Amores said.

Refined sugar in Thailand is priced between P31 and P34 per kilo, cheaper than the P60 to P65 per kilo range here in the country, according to Amores.

Candy makers, for instance, had claimed they are losing their share in the domestic market due to the 'restrictive' policy on sugar importation. They said it is becoming hard to produce in huge volumes when the retail price of sugar is surging, as it makes up 60 percent of the cost of a confectionery item.

Sales of confectionery products in the Philippines amount to some P30 billion annually, of which imported goods account for 30 percent (P9 billion) at present, from 5 percent in 2010.

Along with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc., Philfoodex is hoping the government delivers on its commitment to open up sugar trade. Then Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno in January said the government is planning to deregulate next, after rice, the importation of sugar.

Amores argued the liberalization of sugar trade will benefit all sectors, including farmers, manufacturers and consumers.

'We are glad that our government is listening to our concerns because this has become a burden on our part. We absolutely cannot compete with similar products from Asean because our sugar is relatively too expensive,' the Philfoodex chief said.

In response to proposals to liberalize sugar trade, National Federation of Sugar Workers Secretary General John Milton Lozande in February said opening up the domestic market to imported sugar will result in the displacement of more than 700,000 sugar workers and 75,000 planters.

This could spell doom to the agriculture sector, Lozande said. He warned the eventual displacement will add to the growing job losses in agriculture that increased to 1.8 million from July 2016 to July 2018.

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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jun 10, 2019
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