BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Last week, across the Guimaras Strait, a board member of Iloilo province delivered a privilege speech and “exposed” what was described by Hacienda Bacolod Facebook page as a “scam” that would make sugar planters lose billions for this year alone by being “forced” to export sugar to the United States.
The speech and an accompanying resolution by Board Member Matt Palabrica of Iloilo’s third district was hailed by Hacienda Bacolod as an indication that the “stop sugar exportation movement” has gained traction.
In the resolution, Palabrica and his two co-authors, one of whom is fellow board member Jason Gonzales also urged President Duterte and Agriculture Sec. William Dar to consider putting a stop to the exportation of sugar.
The title of the resolution included the phrase which said sugar farmers “lose money in the transactions” as they urged Duterte to provide more support to sugar farmers. “
Palabrica said in his resolution “… it had been the practice”of the sugar industry to “force” the allocation of sugar for export.
Palabrica pointed out that the country produces around 2.1 million metric tons of sugar annually yet has a national demand of 2.5 million metric tons or a deficit of around 400,000 MTs.
“A” sugar, he added, is usually priced lower by at least P350 per bag or P7,000 per metric ton compared to “B” or sugar sold in the local market.
Palabrica estimated that if the sugar bound for the US market were to be sold locally to fill in the 400,000 metric tons deficit, this would mean an additional income of P11.13 billion for sugar producers.
He also calculated that if seven percent of the total of production yearly or 140,000 metric tons of sugar is exported annually, that would mean a loss of and P920 million yearly for sugar producers.
As Palabrica let loose his expose, questions also flew, among them: why did it take an official of Iloilo province and not one from here, the Sugarlandia of the country, to expose such an anomaly if it does, indeed, exist?
Sugar had been a significant export crop of the country for close to 200 years now.
Scholars who have studied the Philippine sugar industry say the growth of sugar as an export crop started in the period between 1836 to 1920, what American author and history professor John A. Larkin calls as a “distinct era” and “crucial” 84-year period that is “inextricably entwined with foreign markets and foreigners.”
From out of this condition emerged the “A” or US sugar quota that has become a contentious issue among players of the sugar industry through the years.
Larkin, in his book “Sugar and Origins of Modern Philippine Society,” mentioned events that could have contributed to the rise in the export of Philippine sugar: increase in population in Europe and the United States, and the prohibition of slavery that affected West Indian production.
MAKE IT 100 INSTEAD OF 95-5
The current issue raised by Palabrica, a small planter who is also engaged in the government’s block farming program, centers on the seven percent “A” or US market sugar the SRA has allocated for export for Crop Year 2020-2021 (1 September 2020-31 August 2021) based on Sugar Order No. 1 issued on 2 September 2020.
Palabrica said his estimate of P920 million is based on the lost income of sugarcane producers in the country, most of which are small ones and agrarian reform beneficiaries.
The Sugar Regulatory Administration estimates sugar production for the 2020-2021 crop year at 2.19 million metric tons, seven percent of which or 153,000 metric tons will be quedanned as “A” or US sugar while more than two million metric tons will be allocated as “B” or domestic sugar. Palabrica said under the Duterte administration, the A-B split started at 95-5 but has now become 93-7 unlike that under the Aquino II administration when it was mostly 100 percent domestic.