58,000 MT of sugar arrive – SRA exec

March 13, 2023
The Philippine Star | https://bit.ly/3ZIZ4mb

MANILA, Philippines — At least 58,000 metric tons of imported sugar have arrived in the country, an official of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said yesterday.

SRA board member and planters’ representative Pablo Luis Azcona said this amid questions on the legality of the 440,000 MT of approved allocation after Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban awarded the total volume of the outsourced sweeteners to only three importers ahead of the issuance of Sugar Order No. 6.

Azcona said included in the 58,000 MT sugar arrival were 260 containers which arrived at the Port of Batangas on Feb. 9.

“Yes, the total volume was 11,550 MT,” Azcona told The STAR when asked if 260 containers were included in the 58,000 MT total arrival of imported sugar.

Azcona said that all the 58,000 MT of imported sugar were classified as buffer stock.

“Zero tons have been classified as B domestic. As of now, all the imported sugar was classified as reserve or buffer stocks,” he said.

In a separate radio interview, Azcona said that the retail price of sugar is expected to go down within the next 12 to 14 days.

“Immediately after the issuance of Sugar Order number 6 on Feb. 15, the farmgate price of raw sugar went down from P75 (per kilo) to P60. The request of our farmers is for the raw sugar to hover at P60 per kilo. So, when this happens, it will take 12 to 14 days for the price in Negros to be felt in Metro Manila,” Azcona said.

He said the farmgate price of refined sugar in Negros ranged between P76 and P80 per kilo.

“We expect at least P85 to P90 (per kilo) retail price of refined sugar in Manila this month,” he added.

Based on the monitoring of the Department of Agriculture (DA), the retail price of refined sugar is still sold as high as P115 per kilo in the markets.

Azcona said that the government will release the imported sweetener if the decline in the farmgate price in Negros fails to influence the retail price in the market.

He said bulk or 240,000 MT of the total 440,000 MT of imported sugar is expected to arrive in the country in April.

“Based on the schedule of the SRA, the 240,000 MT, which we declare as buffer stock, will arrive in April to ensure that the sugar farmers will not be affected by the flooding of imported sweeteners,” he said.

According to Azcona, the milling of local farmers ends in the middle or end of April.

“Based on our calculation our local production will last until July (2023), that is why the government decided that the imported sugar will serve as buffer stock to prevent our experience last year, where, because of the delay in importation, there was a spike in prices,” he noted.

At the same time, Azcona said that Panganiban cited a similar explanation when he awarded the 440,000 MT sugar imports to three companies.

“His explanation to me was similar during his press conference, wherein he said he felt there was a need to immediately award the importation and he accepted it. What I did is to make sure all the concerns of the farmers will reach him and he agreed to all the requests of the farmers,” Azcona said.

In an earlier interview with The STAR, former SRA administrator and former Negros Occidental governor Rafael Coscolluela said that Panganiban can be charged for violation of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Practices Act, before the Office of the Ombudsman after allegedly favoring three companies in the importation of 440,000 MT of sugar.

In a separate interview with The STAR, former agriculture secretary and Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) board chairman Leonardo Montemayor said that the legality of the controversial sugar imports should be settled in court, as he encouraged sugar farmers to file a case.

Azcona has confirmed the issuance of necessary documentation for the 440,000 MT sugar imports, following a memorandum of Panganiban to SRA administrator David John Alba asking him to certify the legality of the sugar imports, which was the subject of a Senate investigation over allegations of smuggling.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros has filed Senate Resolution 487 directing the Senate committee on public accountability and investigation to conduct an inquiry into possible irregularities in the arrival of the sugar shipment at the Port of Batangas on Feb. 9.

Panganiban defended his decision to award the 440,000 MT sugar imports to only three companies, saying he was acting “upon the instructions” of President Marcos through Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin.

Of the total 440,000 MT of sugar allocations, Panganiban awarded 240,000 MT to All Asian Countertrade Inc., and 100,000 MT each to Edison Lee Marketing and S&D SUCDEN Philippines Inc.

SO 6 states that the SRA should begin accepting applications for five calendar days from the date of effectivity of the order on Feb. 18.

The SRA should only award allocations for five calendar days after the last day of receiving applications.