SRA chief allays fears on Afta in 2015-A A +A
Thursday, May 1, 2014
SUGAR Regulatory Administration (SRA) chief Maria Regina Bautista- Martin allayed fears of sugar industry stakeholders on the implementation of the Asean Free Trade Agreement (Afta) in 2015.
"We don't need to fear Afta in 2015. We just have to increase our production," Martin said during the Kapihan session conducted Wednesday by the Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF) at the Sugar Industry Foundation Office in Trafalgar Square, Talisay City.
The session was attended by PEF local partners and representatives of foundations and cooperatives in the sugarcane industry.
Martin said the key to the challenge of 2015 is for the sugar industry to increase its productivity while lowering the cost.
"Other countries see the Philippines as a sugar importer," she said.
As part of the preparation, Bautista said they are teaching small farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) to be “agri- preneurs,” which means that they should not only know how to plant sugarcane, but also "how to manage it effectively and efficiently."
“We are encouraging ARBs with small lots to go into block farming as sugar planting is a ‘plantation crop’ that requires about 30 hectares to be productive,” Martin said.
PEF executive director Roberto Calingo said that while sugar producers in the country may feel the effects of Afta, businesses and workers in Negros will especially experience the impact.
"The Kapihan session will provide a venue for PEF and its partners to discuss how businesses and farmers in the region can continue to develop in a low to zero tariff Asean as well as to identify means of support our partners might need," Calingo said.
As of 2013, the sugar industry has contributed P76 billion per year to the national economy, of which a significant portion is produced in the province.
The PEF is an organization that aims to help poor households by supporting, promoting and scaling up social enterprises in communities as well as helping poverty reduction in the country.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 01, 2014.