A WORKER inspects bottled Coca-Cola beverages at a plant in Bacolod City. — AFP

AGRICULTURE Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said on Monday Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines, Inc. is looking into directly sourcing its sugar supply from sugarcane farmers.
“They discussed about directly engaging farmers to produce sugar for them, instead of relying on the traders. They were looking at Bukidnon and North Cotabato as the possible areas,” Mr. Piñol told reporters. “What they want to happen is they want to seal deals with the farmers in those district who don’t want to be controlled.”
In a statement, Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines said it continues to work closely with the Sugar Regulatory Administration and its partners to ensure the return of the Coke Original Taste in stores.
“We are optimistic that the supply of our Coke Original Taste in restaurants and in stores will continue to stabilize in the next few weeks,” the company said.
Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines earlier complained about the unreliable supply of local sugar, which affected its production of Coca-Cola Original Taste.
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is considering reviewing the issuance of sugar importation permits.
Mr. Piñol said the current process — wherein in the permits are coursed through the planters associations and traders — is too long and brings additional costs.
“We import because there is a shortage or there is a spike in the price of sugar. The process however — the system does not guarantee a lower price for sugar,” he added.
“If our target is to bring in sugar to stabilize the price, then that is not the way to go. If you’re an institutional user of sugar like [Coca-Cola FEMSA Philippines] then you’ll obviously complain.”
Mr. Piñol said Coca-Cola executives told him they are willing to pay royalties to farmers in exchange for the license to import.
“I was thinking of using that to assist sugarcane planters all over the country. Like [for] mechanization,” he added. “So why not use that to buy them (sugarcane farmers) harvesters and tractors so that we can make sure that they really benefit instead of giving them cash.” — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato