NO NEED FOR SUGAR IMPORTS THIS YEARQuezon City, May 25, 2003 -- The Philippines is expected to post a 10-year-high sugar production of 2.132 million metric tons (MT) by the end of the milling season, a 12.3 percent increase from 1.898 million MT in 2002 in what is deemed to be an unprecedented industry growth rate. Department of Agriculture (DA) officials said that the production estimate is confirming plans of the Philippines not to import sugar for the year, including close to 60,000 MT of minimum access volume (MAV). "With such figures, there will be no more need to import, and farmers in Negros are strongly lobbying against importation because prices might fall," the official said. "During our reference period of 10 years, we haven't reached that volume and that growth rate." The country has a commitment with the World Trade Organization (WTO) to slap sugar imports at lower duties of 35 percent for MAV compared to the 65 percent tariff for importation outside MAV. However, Segfredo R. Serrano, DA assistant secretary for policy and planning, said that the Philippines will not be violating any rules with its trading partners if it will not import the MAV volume for 2003. "We have a commitment for MAV, but that doesn't mean we'll force people to import even if we don't need it. The agreement on agriculture itself (guarantees we are not forced to buy the MAV volume), or we'll be violating our own rules," Serrano said. Records at the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) showed that production for the milling season 2002-2003 ending August 31 is estimated to hit 2.132 million MT since five more mills are still operating, and their output should add up to the actual production of 2.065 million MT as of May 18, 2003. The DA official said that expansion of land areas planted on high-yielding varieties (HYVs) has boosted sugar production. HYVs used to be planted on just around 25 percent of total sugar area of 365,000 hectares, but this figure has increased to 45 percent. "That's more than 150,000 hectares contributing to a big improvement," the official said. HYVs carry a recovery rate of 1.83 bags per ton cane compared to the recovery rate of 1.78 tons for traditional sugarcane varieties. The official said sugar producers have infused more investments to the sector because of a stabilized sugar price ranging at P800 to P850 per 50-kilo bag as a result of tariff protection to the industry kept at 65 percent (WTO) and 50 percent (Asean Free Trade Area).
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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