AgricultureSecretary Proceso Alcala yesterday assured the support of the Aquinoadministration for the country's bioethanol industry, and urged a shift towards the production of organic muscovado to boost the survival of the industry when tariffs on imported sugar are lifted in 2015.
"There is a future for the country's bioethanol industry," said Alcala, who was in Bacolod City for the distribution of crop insurance to rice farmers in Negros Occidental.
The push for the production of bioethenol is still on, he assured.
Bioethanol and sugar industry leaders have complained that Executive Order 449 signed by former President Gloria Arroyo in 2006 reduced the import tariff on bio ethanol from 10 percent to one percent making it difficult for the domestic industry to survive.
They are asking that the tariff be raised to 20 percent, ManuelLamata, United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines president, said.
Alcala said a Cabinet technical working group together with the Department of Finance is validating the data on the matter.
When the group comes out with a report, we will submit it to the President for his final decision, he said.
He said he did not want to preempt the technical working group on the tariff level to be set, but said a reversal of the Arroyo EO should be made.
"We should give protection to our farmers," he said.
Luis Tongoy, Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations director, said in the bioethanol law, there is a mandate to use local ethanol first and only import the shortage.
"The Department of Energy should implement the law which will force the oil companies and ethanol producers to agree on a price. The imported ethanol price does not compete with the local ethanol price because of the mandate," Tongoy said.
The main reason for the stop in bioethanol production at theSan Carlos Cityplant was the increase in the price of sugarcane for table sugar, said Alcala, who denied that the bioethanol industry is being ignored by the Aquino administration.
Areas that do not compete with food production will be used for the planting of crops for biothenaol production, he added.
Meanwhile, he said the best chance farmers have to survive after 2015 when tariffs on imported sugar are lifted, is to convert some of its lands into the production of organic muscovado that is in demand inEuropeat high prices
Organic fertilizer is also a lot cheaper, he added.
Alcala said as of now 25 percent of the country's agricultural produce is organic.
Alcala said he personally is a practitioner of organic farming and when he started five years ago it was only 5 percent.
Last night he was meeting with a Singaporean group inManilainterested in importing organic vegetables from the country, Alcala said.
He is excited about the potential ofCanlaon Cityin Negros Oriental and Don Salvador Benedicto in Negros Occidental in growing organic vegetables, Alcala said.
Alcala said he can include their produce as priorities for export to neighboring countries. He said the country currently exports organic vegetables toJapan,SingaporeandHongKong.
"Going organic is the future of agriculture in the county," he said.*CPG