THE sugar industry called for the restoration of the P2-billion Sugar Industry Development Act fund for more farm grants and stronger research and development, the Philippine Sugar Millers Association, Inc. (PSMA) said.

The PSMA said on Friday that the Sugar Industry Development Act fund can also be used for socialized credit, infrastructure development and more scholarship grants, which can help improve the Philippine sugar industry.

However, PSMA said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has cited underutilization as the reason for budget cuts under the fund since 2017.

This call comes after the sugar group cited the Thailand government’s recent approval of a 10-billion baht (P15.7 billion) subsidy program for its 300,000 sugarcane growers.

The group said the assistance program of the Thailand government encourages its farmers to continue sugarcane planting despite a drought, weak global sugar demand and better income in other crops such as cassava.

PSMA Executive Director Jesus L. Barrera said compared to the Philippines, Thailand is willing to spend big to assist and keep its farmers in planting sugarcane.

“Our counterparts in Thailand shared that domestic sugar demand will drop by as much as 10% this year, from 2.5 million tons to about 2.3 million tons. The financial aid will definitely help farmers deal with the increase in production cost and weak demand for sugar,” Mr. Barrera said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Barrera said as of June 28, the country’s raw sugar production rose 3.27% year-on-year at 2.141 million metric tons.

However, PSMA said domestic sugar consumption is weak due to the community quarantines being implemented across the country in response to the pandemic. — R.M.D. Ochave