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The stronger Peso, the Sugarcane farmers and the Farm workers of Negros

(Contains revolutionary terms that others might find offensive)

Negros, Philippines, is chiefly sugar producer – exporter. Economy is very sensitive to the off and on of the milling season and to the fluctuations of the price of sugar by local trading. By the awesome leap of the peso lately, the sugar farmers of Negros are bound to lose billions of pesos which are not easily seen but losses that are passed on and cascaded to everybody – commerce, shops, transports, studentry; you name it, down to the grassroots – unrealized income. This is of course in the assumption that gain is transmitted by trading to the producing sector as readily as it does with loss.

Landlords are exploited as much as farm workers. In fact, history will point to Planters as the most vocal, the bigger the more, against (traders’ exploitation) compared to other sectors. Big planters pay for everything including LABOR and sum up all as cost of production. Small planters are observed to count only CASH-OUT for cost, with little consideration to family time spent on production. Many of them did not know it when price of sugar went down to near zero profit.

Supply and demand, of natural human-animal instinct origin, the law that dominates world economy, is present day economics to deal with. Sometimes supply or demand is artificially created such as manipulation by unscrupulous traders. We do have people who believe that famine or glut their produce should sell the same. But people cannot depart far from the main body of society without isolating themselves or worse considered abnormal or insane.

A sugarcane farmer belongs to a Sugar Planters Association or associations. The associations facilitate selling by planters. In principle, the associations exist for the advancement of farmer-members’ interests. For one thing they are no more than parts of the trading system controlled by compradores. While sugar farmers are vulnerable to trade manipulation, they are not in the position to counter manipulate. Planters have no control over their Quedans other than sale. And most of the planters, for many reasons, MUST liquidate immediately their weekly Quedans whether they like the price or not.

Sugarcane farmers of the Philippines never had happy days since the abolition of the old U.S. quota when the Laurel-Langley Agreement expired, which was followed by the collapse of the industry in the 80s. Since then, constant gloom has hung over the industry causing landowners to push successfully for Voluntary Offer to Sell or VOS program. VOS is land reform from landowners’ initiative. Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has been swarmed by offers-to-sell more than it has handled actually. A major part of land reform in Negros went through VOS.

The gloomy state of the sugar industry has also contributed to poor productivity. Generally, planters have grown conservative or are hesitant to spend for production especially in an economy that is largely dependent on crop loan that more often is also depended on for all other needs. The country’s national average was estimated at 60 TC per hectare of the 120 TC/Ha that is achievable.

The emerging ethanol industry, when realized, is expected to improve the situations for sugarcane farmers. Assuming free economy, Mother nature herself – PURE natural law of supply and demand – is expected to elbow her way in. Ethanol production will compete with sugar production for supply of raw material that is sugarcane which is expected to seek higher value. There have been stronger clamors for abolition of Land Reform lately, a program that is viewed by many as a big failure anyway.

[In the Philippines, the term free economy has a bad connotation to it. It is associated by activists with the bad state of local economy as a product of this “free economy” – an economy that leans heavily or favors the Political-economic powers. ]

Also, farmers and millers will probably be dealing per TC-PSTC instead of the present trading based on Lkg. Whatever, people should also expect traders to adapt in there for their own advantages too. Maybe farmers should see what is in the Bio-fuel law and the country’s Ethanol program, themselves.

Planters and Farm Workers’ Relation

I remember the sugar crisis of 2003-04 when price of domestic sugar plunged to P620.00/Lkg and planters were banging pots and cans. I was watching this interview of one leftist labor leader in TV. He was saying that the crisis meant nothing to them because good times or bad times they always had nothing except (clean bones). How true. But if he knew it, there won’t even be bones for them to stew had situation persisted…

Just a while ago Visayan Daily Star reported about some farm workers in Negros being paid P60.00 daily wage. What a pity after generations of struggle… In fact there is no real Minimum Wage Law in Negros today. Wages depend on the employers and their farm workers – both seemed unmindful of any law. Cutting and loading vary at P100.00/Ton to P130.00/Ton and manual weeding, mostly by women and children, vary at P30.00 – 60.00 / day…

Milling Season 2007-08 has started, and started quite high at P1, 400.00 per Lkg. Good prices at opening and at closing of season, poor prices in-between due to sugar smuggling and reported “glut” in the market, that’s the way story has always gone. Price can go higher than that and yet sugarcane planters will strongly oppose any wage hike to farm workers. History has taught planters that price of sugar can drop anytime. In fact, Sugar Regulatory Authority’s (SRA) forecast for this crop year is P820.00 average composite price per Lkg…

The conditions of the working class in the sugar industry are affected by STABILITY and PRICE of sugar. It is therefore imperative for labor leaders to view problems of farm-workers beyond landlords. The sugarcane industry is a national industry affecting not only planters but 99.99% of Filipinos in sugar producing regions.

Leninist-Maoist politics in the Philippines has failed to improve the living conditions of the farm (and industrial) workers after more than half a century of struggle. It has been focused at overthrowing the State.

I think Peasants and Farm workers against Landlords as the primary antagonistic contradiction, and as the primary political vehicle, is an obsolete invention to ride on in present day Philippines. Riding the peasants is not Marxists’ law, nor will it be anti Marxist to employ both Landlords and Peasants against (unscrupulous traders).

Landlords and Peasants are in fact cats of the same color only of different sizes. Contradictions between them are easily manageable from the top.

Modern day survival has naturally become more focused at (elimination of) the Comprador Big Bourgeoisie, the most economically and politically influential stratum in Philippine society today. To survive, producers must (struggle and) diversify into marketing to reach consumers themselves, eliminating as much as possible the comprador or parts of his system. I think the best solution is for State to nationalize TRADING of SUGAR and ETHANOL. The Philippines has seemed become tight to accommodate the 00.01% of population who, maybe, should be doing something else than being blamed for widespread misery in the country.

Or, maybe Filipinos should learn from Brazil. I help to focus at Brazil because the country shares something in common with the Philippines. Both countries have great agricultural and agro-industrial potentials. Both, although of different territorial sizes, were at the same footings decades ago. Social conditions in both countries were quite similar too. Brazil today, ranked number two in Ethanol production, is regarded the world leader in the industry.

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2 Responses

  1. […] [] the Sugarcane farmers and the Farm workers of Negros […]

  2. […] for the farming sector, this time it is the general consuming public that has been hit by Trade. Last time farmers were hit hard was in 2004 when they suffered about a hundred percent off from thei… What a coincidence, 2004, as now, happened to be election […]

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