DTI steps into sugar row, caps corn syrup imports

March 31, 2017
Othel V. Campos (Manila Standard Today) | https://goo.gl/KJpkCs

The Department of Trade and Industry stepped into the row between sugar millers and importers of sweetened sugar after the Sugar Regulatory Administration restricted the shipments of high fructose corn syrup into the Philippines.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said a high-level meeting Thursday overturned the SRA order, and allowed the release of imported corn syrup that entered the Philippines before March 10.

Such shipments had been detained at the Manila Port in compliance with the SRA order.

“There has been talks among stakeholders but the bottom line is based on a report to me there has been an agreement that rather than change the rules of game and (stop) the importation of HFCS, there will be a transition period,” Lopez said during the Pandesal Forum at Kamuning Cafe and Bakery in Quezon City.

The government during the transition will place a cap on corn syrup imports until it has resolved the problem of the sugar sector or come up with a better way to help sugar farmers.

Under the new terms, Lopez said all orders of imported corn syrup prior to March 10, 2017 when the SRA order was issued would be released until the proportion of HFCS and local sugar to be used by beverage makers is balanced.

“There is a  commitment (from the soft drinks industry) to buy more local sugar domestically and put a cap on sugar substitute. So it’s a win-win case,” Lopez said.

He said imported high fructose corn syrup was still cheaper by 30 percent to 40 percent compared with local sugar.

After the transition, Lopez said the beverage industry would have a blend of corn syrup and sugar as sweetener for manufacturing.

“You cannot tell them that it is going to be 100 percent (local sugar) but there will be a  blend... there is a certain volume of HFCS, not zero but not unlimited,” said Lopez.

He added the local sugar industry should start modernizing production and manufacturing processes to stay competitive and obtain better returns.

“We should not protect the sugar industry if it affects the user,” he said.

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