SRA board okays sugar importation

Regulators have approved the importation of up to 200,000 metric tons of sugar in a bid to boost domestic supplies and stabilize market prices, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said on Monday.

The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) board “has already approved the resolution,” he told reporters, adding that the imports were expected arrive as “soon as possible” once the final volume is set.

Piñol, who chairs the SRA board, said: “I still [need]to determine [the]volume of sugar. The shortage is between 160,000 to 200,000 metric tons of sugar.”

The Agriculture chief late last month rejected calls for sugar imports, saying supplies remained adequate and that an apparent lack was due to erroneous projections by producers.

On Monday, however, he said the SRA board had “also agreed to prevent another situation like this where the sugar industry was literally caught flat-footed because of the sudden decrease in the volume of production…”.

He said the sugar industry would “now employ real-time monitoring of stand crops before the harvest season so that we’ll be able to project just like what we’re doing on rice using PRISM (Philippine Rice Information System)…”.

“[W]e’ll be able to project the expected harvest and come up with measures to prevent any shortage.”

Confectionery producers last month complained that domestic sugar was 200 percent more expensive compared to prices elsewhere and urged the government to allow them to import the commodity.

The price of raw sugar was said to have increased by 42 percent to P2,070 per 50-kilogram bag as of the beginning of June while retail prices also rose 2.1 percent to P48.23 per kilo.

Sugar producers raised concerns earlier this year when prices hit P1,700 per 50-kilo bag, claiming that this would prompt manufacturers and processors to shift to cheaper sweetener alternatives.

Piñol said government funds would not be used for the importation and added that farmers would also benefit as the SRA had approved the reclassification of unshipped “D”, or world market, sugar to “B” for domestic consumption.

“There will be conversion from D to B and farmers groups will get a share of the profit in the conversion,” he said.
“I don’t want to see abnormal pricing of sugar in the market,” Piñol said.

“Kapag inipit nila price ng commodity, magpapa-import ako (If they try to pin prices, I will allow imports). Let this be a warning to speculators and those who are using the Train (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) law and the oil prices to spike prices on the commodities in the market,” he said.

Higher prices due to fears that an El Niño dry spell would cut sugarcane output prompted the SRA in 2015 to allow traders and millers to import 170,000 MT of sugar.

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