PHL eyes 300K MT sugarimports as yields plunge

THE Philippines is mulling over importing 300,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar to plug the shortfall in supply and temper rising prices as local production falls to its lowest level in more than two decades.

The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) is looking at 300,000-MT additional sugar imports to ensure the country’s supply is adequate until next the milling season peaks, its administrator told the BusinessMirror.

“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,” SRA Administrator Hermenegildo R. Serafica said in an interview Wednesday.

Serafica explained that even if some sugar mills start operating in August, they would not be able to meet the monthly estimated sugar demand of the country.

“The volume produced in August and September are negligible and cannot meet the 169,000 MT monthly average consumption since the volume of sugarcane that can be harvested in August and September are minimal,” he said.

“In addition, the refineries need time to build-up their raw sugar supply before they can start refining the same,” he added.

Lowest in 22 years

The country’s sugar production in crop year 2021-2022 may settle at 1.8 million MT, its lowest level in 22 years, documents and data obtained by the BusinessMirror showed.

The volume would be 16 percent lower than the 2.143 MMT recorded output in the previous crop year. The volume is also 9 percent lower than the 1.98 MMT final crop estimate made by the SRA months ago.

Historical SRA data showed that this is the lowest sugar production of the country since the 1.619 MMT recorded in crop year 1999-2000.

SRA’s latest sugar output estimate was presented at a recent stakeholders’ consultation on the sugar supply situation.

Industry sources told the BusinessMirror that participants during the stakeholders’ consultation were unanimous in proposing an additional sugar import program with a volume ranging from a low of 150,000 MT to as much as 350,000 MT.

Marcos was briefed

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. was briefed by Department of Agriculture (DA) and SRA officials on the country’s sugar supply situation last August 1.

In his presentation to the President, Serafica said the country would end the crop year 2021-2022 with a deficit of 35,231 MT of raw “B” sugar and a shortfall of 20,749 MT of refined “B” sugar. The current crop year ends on August 31. “B” sugar is sugar classified by the SRA for domestic use.

Serafica explained that sugar prices skyrocketed in the past months due to tightening supply worsened by delayed implementation of the Sugar Order (SO) 3 import program and increased production costs.

Serafica also recommended to Marcos, the concurrent Agriculture Secretary and SRA Board Chairperson, the drafting of a new SO for another import program.

Documents and data obtained by the BusinessMirror showed that the country must have a comfortable buffer stock of about 250,000 MT of raw sugar and another 250,000 MT of refined sugar.

The country’s total refined sugar ending balance by August 31 would only be at 129,251.35 MT while raw sugar ending stocks would be totally wiped out (-11,617 MT), latest government estimates showed.

SRA price monitoring reports showed that the average price of refined sugar in Metro Manila supermarkets as of July 29 reached P90.85 per kilogram, while those sold in wet markets were pegged at P93 per kilogram.

Furthermore, SRA price monitoring reports showed that the refined sugar in Metro Manila supermarkets and groceries go as high as P115 per kilogram. The Philippines has been scrambling to arrest skyrocketing sugar prices caused by thinning supply due to lackluster domestic production. Government officials earlier warned that the country’s sugar supply would be depleted by the end of the month.