Beverage producer Coca-Cola said Thursday recent calls to boycott their products in Negros provinces will not only affect the company but also the sugar workers and the local communities.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol earlier said some protesters in Negros provinces called for a boycott of Coca Cola products, which Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon supported by ordering a ban on the sale and sponsorship of Coca Cola in the province in April.
“They cited that because of the massive use by Coca Cola [and Pepsi Cola] of high fructose corn syrup, the prices of sugar dropped from P1,800 per bag of 50 kilos to only P1,300 per bag as of March,” Piñol said.
Cola-Cola said in a statement it was disappointed that the sugar industry which it considered as partners were pushing for the boycott.
“We are deeply concerned that the misunderstanding on the importation of HFCS has affected our relationship with the sugar industry and the people we proudly serve in the Negros region,” Coca-Cola said.
“We believe that, at times when there is a disagreement, there are always viable solutions that all sides can amicably reach in an atmosphere of respect and openness. The misguided call to boycott our products is not one of them. The call to boycott our products affects many more workers and consumers along the economic value chain than some of our partners in the sugar industry realize,” Coca-Cola said.
Coca-Cola said the loss of sales from the boycott would hit the local communities the hardest.
“These are not lost profits, so much as they are money taken away from the people who work the most― the sugar farmers themselves; the small micro-entrepreneurs who sell our products; the men and women behind the local businesses that sell us ingredients or packaging and who stock their shelves with our products,” said Coca-Cola.
“In fact, our bottling facility in Negros Occidental produces beverages with 100 percent locally-sourced sugar. Moreover, Coca-Cola is expanding our bottling operations in Bacolod City by adding a new production line worth $17 million,” the company said.
Cola-Cola said despite the calls for boycott, the company would continue to work with the government for the improvement of the local sugar industry.
“Despite the calls of local government officials and some sugar industry stakeholders to boycott our products, the Coca-Cola System continues to welcome the opportunity to engage in dialog and to work with government, the local sugar industry and all other stakeholders concerned to address the needs of all sectors, particularly the sugar farming communities in Negros,” said Coca-Cola.
Coca Cola earlier appealed for the suspension of an order by the Sugar Regulatory Administration which regulates the entry of high fructose corn syrup. The order mandates that an importer or consignee of imported fructose be a duly registered international trader with the SRA.
Coca Cola said its facilities were designed for the use of HFCS. The company said it needed time to adjust their facilities to accommodate the use of local sugar in beverage production. The company said that once their facilities were adjusted, they would also buy more local sugar for production.