Juan Miguel Zubiri is asking the government to release or publish the master development plan of the sugar industry to small farmers, claiming that it was only shared with presidents of sugar associations.
Zubiri, who said he was echoing the sentiments of more than 9,000 small farmers in Bukidnon, also said he noted that there seems to be a problem in “messaging” on the reported master plan for the sugar industry.
He expressed dismay that the government has not yet initiated steps on softening its impact on the local sugar industry, with the implementation of zero tariff on imported sugar by 2015.
He, however, also said that he is only expressing the prevailing sentiments of Bukidnon sugar farmers, and that the Sugar Regulatory Administration may also have plans for Negros.
“I am sorry if I hurt the feelings of some people in the sugar industry, but I am only telling the truth about the sentiments of farmers in Bukidnon,” he said.
There are two sugar centrals in Bukidnon, and the industry was brought to the province from Negros by Jose Zubiri, his father, who is now the provincial vice-governor, almost four decades ago.
With prices of sugar per bag plummeting to between P950 to P900, Zubiri said Bukidnon farmers would rather go into banana or pineapple. While Bukidnon farmers may go into fruit production, corn, rubber or palm oil production, what is pity that some other sugar farmers in other areas of the country, like Negros, cannot shift to other industry, he said, adding that not everyone is rich and big planters.
Zubiri stressed the need to continue focusing on the “sugarcane” industry, and said there are some farmers, even his relatives in Negros, are still holding on to the idea of “quedans”.
“We have to change our mindset and to look sugarcane, not just for sugar, but also the production of energy and ethanol fuel”, he said.
The only way to survive it to copy what India and Brazil did, which are not only producing sugar but all products of sugarcane, Zubiri said.
He also acknowledged the effort of Negros Occ. Rep. Alfredo Benitez to help the sugar industry by filing of bill in Congress, which aimed at softening the impact of zero tariff on imported sugar to the local industry.
“We need to solidify our stand on sugar industry”, Zubiri stressed.
We cannot afford five million people, who are directly and indirectly dependent to the industry, to die overnight because of lack of planning,” he added.*GPB