Local News: SRA Admin Martin Off to Thailand
To develop closer ties with Thailand, Asia’s largest sugar producer and exporter, Administrator Regina Bautista-Martin together with leaders of theSugar Alliance of the Philippines (SRA) flew to Thailand to have a series of meetings with officials of Thailand’s Office of the Cane and Sugar Board (OCSB) headed by Dr. Prasert Tapaneeyangkul, Secretary-General of the OCSB.
Accompanying Administrator Martin were Enrique D. Rojas, President, National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, Inc. (NFSP), Manuel R. Lamata, President, United Sugar Producers’ Federation of the Philippines, Inc. (UNIFED), Francisco D. Varua, President, Philippine Sugar Millers Association, Inc. (PSMA), Atty. Jesus L. Barrera, SRA Board member (representing sugar millers) and Butch Alisla, Chief of Staff, SRA Administrator. On Thailand’s side, in addition to Dr. Prasert the OCSB was represented by Deputy Secretary-General Opas Isarasenarak and the next generation of OCSB officials Rangsit Hiangrat, Director of Cane and Sugar Policy Bureau, Porntip Siripanuwat, Senior Expert on Policy and Foreign Affairs, and Apichin Chotikastira, Director of Sugar and Sugar-Related Industries Development Bureau.
One of the key points agreed upon both by Thailand and the Philippines was the formation of alliance comprising of sugar producers in Southeast Asia. Administrator Martin and Dr. Prasert were in agreement that such an alliance is necessary to provide leverage for Asean sugar producers against the volatility in the world market prices of sugar, particularly the New York No. 11 world raw sugar prices. It will also serve as venue for the sugar producing countries in Asean to raise and address common concerns affecting their respective sugar industries or sugar in general. As agreed in the meetings, the initial discussion on the Asean Sugar Producers Alliance may begin in November 2012 in Thailand and will involve three countries, namely Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. The initiative shall be initiated primarily by the private sector groups of the countries.
Addressing the problem on smuggling, Messrs Rojas and Lamata brought the possibility of link up and exchange of trade data between OCSB and SRA, to synchronize the volume of sugar imports of the Philippines from Thailand with the Thai sugar exports to the Philippines. Since in the past crop years, sugar exports of Thailand to the country far exceeds the import data of SRA. As a sign of cooperation, Thailand agreed to provide SRA its export figures to the Philippines per official request of SRA.
SRA and Thailand also agreed on the idea of a closer coordination in research activities between Philsurin and Thailand’s research institutions, particularly the universities which conduct researches for the sugar industry. On that score, OCSB welcomes the planned visit of Philsurin to Bangkok in the latter part of 2012 to touch base with its Thai counterpart.
In the evening, SRA Martin together with Mr. Varua and Atty. Barrera met with the officers of Thai Sugar Millers Association headed by its Executive Chairman Vibul Panivong.
The Thai millers, in addition to expressing support to the points agreed by SRA and OCSB earlier that day, indicated their intention to explore investment opportunities in the Philippines in the area of sugar milling, bioethanol production and commercial power co-generation. Thai millers have existing investments and interests in Laos, Cambodia, China and Australia. In fact, the largest sugar mill in China is owned by Mitr Phol, a Thai sugar milling company.*