Govt aims to cut sugar retail price via imports

The Department of Agriculture (DA) said it is targeting to reduce the retail price of refined sugar to P72 per kilogram from a record-high of P115 per kilogram through the proposed additional 300,000-metric ton (MT) importation program.

Agriculture Undersecretary for Consumer Affairs and Spokesperson Kristine Y. Evangelista said based on the agency’s calculations, the retail cost of imported refined sugar should be around P72 per kg.

The BusinessMirror reported that the government is mulling over importing 300,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar to plug the shortfall in supply and temper rising prices after local production fell to its lowest level in more than two decades. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2022/08/03/phl-eyes-300k-mt-sugarimports-as-yields-plunge/)

“We are requesting the [Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) that there should be an [import] allocation for house consumers’ [use],” Evangelista told reporters in a recent interview.

“If we really have a shortage in our local sugar supply and importation is the only way to address it, then we have to ensure that there will be an allocation not only for industrial users but also for household consumers.”

Evangelista said the additional sugar imports should be sold in wet markets to provide relief to consumers.

Import program

United Sugar Producers Federation President (UNIFED) Manuel Lamata said his group does not object to the SRA’s proposal to import 300,000 MT of sugar.

However, UNIFED said the Philippines should only import refined sugar.

“And all the refined sugar of 300,000 MT should be (allocated) to consumers and bakeries. [It should not be] exclusive again to industrial [users],” he told the BusinessMirror.

Lamata said the importation of raw sugar should not be allowed since local plantations would start harvesting sugarcane soon. “Therefore, we will have raw or brown sugar shortly.”

UNIFED and the Luzon Federation of Sugarcane Growers Association (LUZONFED) issued a joint resolution supporting the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) plan to import 300,000 MT of sugar.

The two sugar groups submitted a copy of their joint resolution to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., who is the concurrent agriculture secretary of the country.

In their resolution, UNIFED and LUZONFED said there is “no need to import raw sugar” because “some mills” have jumpstarted their operations this month.

“The imported sugar should come in immediately with no delays and to be classified as ‘B’ sugar the minute it clears Bureau of Customs so as to fast-track the deliveries of sugar to the local market and to consumers,” the joint resolution, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror, read.

The joint resolution also indicated that the sugar importation program should be opened to all SRA-registered local traders who have a track record in the past importation programs of the government.

It stipulated that they will not ask for import right fees for the additional sugar imports. The two groups said the collection of import right fee could increase the prices of imported sugar.

“As to the request of the farmers to be given an import right fee to help them counter the very high prices of fuel and fertilizer, after consulting with our members, we have decided not to ask the government for this because this will add on to the prices of imported sugar that will be passed on to the consumers,” the joint resolution read.

‘SRA knows best’

The Philippine Sugar Millers Association (PSMA) said it is imperative for the SRA to implement a program that would boost the domestic supply of sugar and address increasing prices in the market “as soon as possible.”

“As the agency mandated to maintain a balance between supply and requirements of sugar, SRA is in the best position to determine the import volume and program needed to address the current tightness in supply,” the PSMA said in a statement sent to the BusinessMirror.

“What is more important is that SRA implements a program as soon as possible to infuse additional supply of sugar in the market to immediately address availability and increasing prices.”

SRA Administrator Hermenegildo R. Serafica told the BusinessMirror that the agency will “let the market decide” if importers will bring in raw or refined sugar once the proposed sugar importation program is approved.

Serafica said the additional volume of 300,000 MT will ensure that the country’s sugar supply will be adquate until the next the milling season peaks.

“This should be enough to cover the local demand until such time that the local production is able to build up and cover domestic demand.”