Govt urged to trim volume of sugar imports

February 9, 2023
Business Mirror|

A group of sugar producers is urging the government to limit the proposed import program to just 350,000 metric tons (MT), and to ensure that planters and industrial users will get equal allocation.

In a series of letters to the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), the Confederation of Sugar Producers (Confed) proposed changes to the sugar import program of the government.

The group recommended a 50:50 volume allocation for industrial users and producers and pushed for the participation of all interested accredited sugar traders in the import program.

“We reiterate our position that the importation program should be implemented in an open, transparent and equitable manner,” the group said in its letter.

The group said total import volume should be adjusted to 350,000 MT (300,000 MT refined sugar and 50,000 MT raw sugar) instead of the 450,000 MT earlier announced by some government officials.

It added that imports should arrive in two tranches: 175,000 MT in July or after the current crop year’s milling season and 175,000 MT in August or before the next milling season.

The group also urged SRA to adopt “transparent” import guidelines and to allow sugar producers and other interested accredited sugar traders to participate in the import program.

“Sugar farmers and millers, through their federations, associations or cooperatives which are accredited sugar traders, or through other accredited sugar traders, should be qualified to apply for and import their allocation of 50 percent of the proposed volume,” it said.

The group said the import allocation for sugar producers should be based on their share in the total sugar output in crop year 2021-2022. Meanwhile, industrial users’ import volume allocation should be pro-rated and should be subjected to usual SRA requirements, such as excise tax or VAT payments, among others.

“All applications for importation should be submitted within five days upon the effectivity of the appropriate Sugar Order allowing the importation,” the group said.

“All submitted applications should be opened at the end of the five days, and then published and made available to all applicants.”

Confed said the SRA should complete the evaluation and the awarding of import allocation within 10 days after the deadline of the import applications.

Last month, Manila announced that it is mulling over the purchase of as much as 450,000 MT of imported raw and refined sugar to further beef up its supply and temper retail prices.

Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) board member Pablo Azcona, who represents the sugarcane planters, said the Palace has recommended the importation of 400,000 MT to 450,000 MT of sugar to ensure that the country will have a two-month buffer stock.

Azcona said the bulk of the imported sugar would be refined while part of the volume would constitute raw sugar since some refiners have requested to be allowed to import raw stocks.

“There are recommendations to import from the refiners group. They are requesting to import but for arrival later this year. A little bit of raw sugar so that they can start their refineries early,” he said.

Despite the recommendation to import sugar, Azcona said he still does not believe that the country is suffering from a “physical shortage” of the sweetener.

“This importation program is normal. Every year, for the last 30 years, we usually import after our sugarcane harvest. There is always a shortfall that is needed to be filled until the next harvest, which is usually from June to October. That is the vacuum for our local production.”