By Mortz C. Ortigoza
DAGUPAN CITY – A financier of small scale sugar planters in Tarlac and Pangasinan said that the price of white refined sugar bought from the planters by traders plunged from P2, 400 to P1, 400 per sack with 50 kilos content.
Noel Valdez, who is also into trucking with sugar planters, said that farmers in the two provinces lament the crashed of prices and blamed the Asean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) and the unabated smuggling as the scourge to the welfare of sugar planters.
AFTA has been implemented last January 1, 2015 among 10 members Asean countries where tariff of products among these countries have been lowered if not totally eradicated.
He said that in year 2012 the buying price of traders of refined white sugar at the Hacienda Luisita Sugar Mill in Tarlac was P2, 400 but started to decline in 2013 until it reached the present P1, 400 per sack.
Sugar planters, Valdez said, could only get the cash equivalent of their produce after they milled their sugar cane at the sugar millings when traders wait to buy their refined sugar.
“Pero noong nag attend kami last week ng conference with the SRA (Sugar Regulatory Administration) sa Cebu, sabi ng SRA na naging P1,700 na ang bilihan ng isang sako sa Mindanao and Visayas”.
Sugar stakeholders in the Philippines blamed the depreciation of the sugar prices to AFTA when the Philippines opened its trade with cheap sugar from Thailand, the No.2 sugar producer in the world after Brazil.
Valdez and sugar cane stakeholders blamed the lack of support of the government to them unlike Thailand to her farmers. In Thailand, the government provides direct and indirect support for its sugar industry, such as supplemental payment to farmers, low interest loans at 2 percent per annum, fixed domestic prices, free irrigation services, and a well-developed and maintained transport infrastructure such as road networks and trans-loading ports
Valdez, a resident of Ramos, Tarlac, said that the average harvest of a hectare of the crop is 70 tons or 7,000 kilos of sugar canes.
After milling the farmers can get 70 sacks of refined sugar and sell them up to P120,000.
“The cost of production of the farmer in a hectare is P60, 000 where he used the sum to buy the fertilizer, pays the tabasero (cutters), kabyaw (tillers and haulers), trucker, and others”.
He said P60, 000 from the P120, 000 in the sale of sugar is not the net income of the farmer in one year planting and harvest period.
“Since sugar cane is harvested once a year, the farmer earns more on the second and third harvest because he did not need tillers and planters since the leftover of the cut crops sprouted to be harvested later”.
Despite the saving the farmers can get on the second and third harvest, Valdez still bemoan the cheap buying price of sugar that could hardly meet both ends of the farmers.
P60, 000 is only P5000 per month if ones considered the net revenue of a sugar farmer, with a family to feed, in one year.
Experts said the upside of AFTA is the P40 a kilo of white sugar could drastically plunge to P30 or less that bodes well to the consumers. Its downside however is it would be a blow to the owners of the 28 sugar centrals in the Philippines that provide 700,000 Filipino jobs to people like Valdez.