Ex-SRA chief pushes probe on P136/kilo sugar

May 2, 2023
The Philippine Star | https://bit.ly/3BhKOq6

MANILA, Philippines — Authorities should look into supermarkets selling refined sugar as high as P136 per kilo, former Sugar Regulatory Administrator (SRA) administrator Rafael Coscolluela said yesterday.

“That P136 is unconscionable. Those supermarkets should be investigated. The DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) has a Consumer Protection Unit that should be doing their job,” Coscolluela, also a former Negros Occidental governor, told The STAR.

He was reacting to the SRA’s monitoring, which showed that the retail price of sugar remains high at P136 per kilo in some supermarkets despite the flooding of imported sweetener in the markets.

“The Department of Agriculture and SRA monitor prices and the DTI should keep prices within the prevailing SRP (suggested retail price). All outlets should be covered,” Coscolluela said.

Acting SRA administrator and chief executive officer Pablo Azcona on Friday said that of the 440,000 metric tons of imported sugar under Sugar Order No. 6, 179,000 MT arrived and 86,000 MT were released into the domestic market.

“Obviously, the cartelized imports have no impact on retail prices,” Coscolluela said, referring to Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban’s decision to award the 440,000 MT allocation to three importers. These are All Asian Countertrade Inc., with 240,000 MT; Edison Lee Marketing (100,000 MT) and S&D Sucden Philippines Inc. (100,000 MT).

“There must be a mistake somewhere. At today’s mill gate price of around P3,300 per bag, domestic refined sugar should be selling at P86 to P90 per kilo retail. Imported sugar sold at that price will mean windfall profits for the privileged traders,” Coscolluela said.

He added that it is about time the DA and the SRA implement the planned SRP on sugar.

“The implementation of SRA should be clear,” Coscolluela said.

For United Sugar Producers Federation president Manuel Lamata, those selling P136 per kilo of refined sugar should be charged with economic sabotage.

“That’s too much greed already. It should not be tolerated. The issue is no longer in the supply as we have supply. That is economic sabotage,” Lamata said in a recent radio interview.

He called on the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate the overpriced sale of refined sugar.

“For me, that’s taking advantage already. It should already be investigation. I am calling on the NBI to investigate, something is wrong,” Lamata said.

He added that the local government units (LGUs) can also pass ordinances imposing SRP on sugar.

“LGUs can pass ordinances penalizing those selling beyond P85 (per kilo). They have the power to do that,” Lamata said.

Azcona maintained that the P136-per-kilo retail price of refined sugar in some supermarkets is lower compared with P138 per kilo last January.

“It didn’t hit P136 (per kilo) as it was even at P138 (per kilo),” he said in a message to The STAR.

The retail prices of refined sugar in groceries in Metro Manila ranged between P90.95 and P136 per kilo, and between P88 and P110 per kilo in the public wet markets, according to the SRA.

The agency said the retail price of washed sugar ranged between P85 and P120 per kilo in groceries and between P85 and P95 per kilo in public markets.

For raw sugar, it ranged between 85.60 and P111 per kilo in supermarkets and between P80 and P90 per kilo in the public markets.

The SRA conducts separate price monitoring as the DA has its daily price watch.