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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, August 10, 2011
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Sugarmen welcome Koko offer;
Shift to muscovado hard – guv

BY CARLA GOMEZ

Sugar leaders yesterday welcomed the promise of incoming Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III to take up the cudgels for the sugar industry in the Senate.

Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr. yesterday noted that millgate sugar prices are very low at P1,200 per Lkg because of a reported supply overhang of 800,000 tons.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, during a visit to Bacolod Friday, suggested that sugar planters shift to producing organic muscovado sugar that fetches much higher prices abroad.

Marañon, who has been a staunch advocate of organic farming, said that very few sugar planters and only small farms can shift the production of organic sugar.

It will be difficult for big farms to shift producing organic sugar because it is labor-intensive, he said.

It also takes time for one’s farm to get an international certification that it is indeed producing organic sugar, he said.

The governor said he and about ten farmers are now producing organic sugar in Sagay City.

“The amount of sugar you produce will drop but your cost of production, if you go organic, will also drop because you will no longer use chemical fertilizers,” he said.

Luis Tongoy, Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations director, in welcoming Pimentel’s offer to help, said the sugar industry needs all the support it can get to cushion the impact of the ASEAN Free Trade Area agreement that will bring to zero the tariff on imported sugar entering the country by 2015.

Tongoy said he hopes Zubiri can brief Pimentel on the concerns of the sugar industry so he can hit the ground running.

Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, said “I have personally met Koko Pimentel. I believe he is sincere in his offer to help the sugar industry, particularly on smuggling, which has been our problem for a long time now.”

With tariff on imported sugar dropping to zero by 2015, we welcome the help of Pimentel to make our industry more competitive, Rojas said.

Raymond Montinola, CONFED Negros Panay chapter head, said “CONFED acknowledges the offer of incoming senator Koko Pimentel to help the sugar industry because at the moment we need all the help and support we can get.”

CONFED is prepared to discuss their concerns on premix imports, ethanol production and renewable energy with Pimentel as they are vital for the survival of sugarlandia, he added.

Manuel Lamata, president of the United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines, said UNIFED is appreciative of the offer of Pimentel. The sugar industry needs someone to take up the cudgels for it, Lamata said, noting that Zubiri had championed the cause of the sugar industry.*CPG

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