SRA to boost local supply with 150,000 MT of refined sugar from abroad
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has approved the importation of 150,000 metric tons of refined sugar to address the shortage of the commodity in the country.
Through the Sugar Regulatory Administration, the President signed Sugar Order No. 2, detailing the country’s sugar import program for the crop year 2022 to 2023 and setting the maximum volume for bringing in refined sugar.
The volume would be divided equally between industrial users and consumers, or 75,000 tons for each sector, according to a copy of the order posted on the SRA website and signed by Mr. Marcos as secretary of the Department of Agriculture and chairman of the Sugar Board.
Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles confirmed the issuance of SO2 that comes on the heels of Sugar Order No. 1, signed last month but made public just last Tuesday.
SO1, also signed by the President and the new Sugar Board, allocates the projected domestic raw sugar production of 1.88 million metric tons from September 2022 to August 2023 solely for local consumption.
SO2, on the other hand, mandates that sugar traders participating in the import program “shall ensure that their respective allocated volumes shall arrive in the Philippines no later than November 15, 2022.”
Each participant shall be given one month from Nov. 15 to completely distribute their allocations to their respective clients for industrial use and/or direct consumption and submit to the SRA within 30 calendar days written proof of compliance to the actual distribution.
According to acting SRA Administrator David John Alba, the Sugar Board passed the importation program to serve both industrial users and consumers in the country.
“This import program is just a stopgap measure because we expect supply from the mills to flow into the market, as refineries are expected to be in full operation by next month,” he said, adding some local mills have already started milling.
The President and Agriculture Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban signed both SO1 and SO2 along with Alba and SRA board members Ma. Mitzi Magwag and Pablo Azcona.
Sugar prices have soared to almost P100 a kilo at retail outlets in recent weeks due to a supposed supply shortage.
According to the SRA’s monitoring report as of Sept. 2, the retail prices at supermarkets are now at an average of P74.16for raw sugar, P75.85 for washed, and P94.82 for refined sugar.
Sugar importation recently made headlines after the previous SRA board authorized the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar, which the Palace said lacked Marcos’ approval and was illegal. It also prompted legislative probes and the resignation of several SRA officials.
The high cost of sugar in the country is a result of a “state-sponsored monopsony,” Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda said Wednesday.
A monopsony is a market situation where there is only one buyer of a product, or there is one buyer that dominates the market and can control the price of a product.
According to Salceda, the retail price of sugar, which is being sold in some markets at P120 per kilo, is “artificially high”.
“It is a state-sponsored monopsony. In other words, all you have to do is to get SRA (Sugar Regulatory Administration) out of the way [and] prices will collapse to P40,” he told ANC’s “Headstart”.
The SRA, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, is tasked to issue permits for the importation of sugar.
To bring down sugar prices, Salceda proposed auctioning off the shortage of sugar supply to farmers.
“Why don’t we just impose an auction fee for those who want cheaper sugar from Thailand or India?” he said.
For example, sugar can be bought at P16.67 per kilo in Thailand, the solon added.
“World sugar prices are coming down, but domestic prices are rising and the differential has been growing,” Salceda said, adding the country has a 400,000 metric ton shortage of sugar this year.