Stopgap measures eyed vs rising prices of sugar

August 7, 2022
The Philippine Star |

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) are looking for another stopgap measure on rising sugar prices in the country such as imposing a suggested retail price of P90 per kilogram.

SRA administrator Hermenegildo Serafica said in an interview on dzXL that the government is set to meet with sugar stakeholders next week to discuss possible measures to address the increase in sugar prices.

“Next week we will be meeting with stakeholders [DA] undersecretary [designate] Kristine Evangelista to discuss a suggested retail price of P90 per kilogram,” Serafica said.

Aside from importing 300,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar, another measure being considered is the setting of SRP to address the price surge of sugar in the past few months.

To address the supply shortage, Serafica said the SRA and DA are now working on a sugar importation program with a proposed volume of 300,000 MT to augment the incoming supply from sugar producers and millers.

“What we are looking at is to import 300,000 MT to ensure adequate supply no matter the weather because the recovery of sugarcane depends on the weather during harvesting. If there’s too much rain, the production will be low,” Serafica added.

Starting this month, the SRA official said farmers have started harvesting sugarcane which signals the reopening of sugar mills to be produce raw sugar and refine raw sugar after two weeks.

According to Serafica, the incoming sugar production as well as the importation of the sweetener should result in improved supply and prices in the coming weeks.

Sugar prices have skyrocketed due to tight supply and higher demand as the economy opened further.

Due to the onslaught of typhoons and effects of La Niña, sugar production for the current crop year was projected to be lower, with the SRA expecting output to reach only 1.98 million MT from an earlier estimate of 2.07 million MT.

Moreover, the agency attributed the supply deficit to the delay in the importation program in February.

In line with the lower sugar production estimate, the SRA implemented last February a sugar importation program for 200,000 MT of refined sugar under Sugar Order (SO) 3.

However, its implementation was stalled by temporary restraining orders (TROs) issued by two regional trial courts (RTC) in Negros Occidental as sought by some sugar groups.

As the sugar to be imported was supposed to be allocated for industrial use, manufacturers have started buying up raw sugar intended for consumer use.

After getting legal opinion it can proceed with SO3, Serafica said the SRA began processing applications from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao traders only in May for the sugar importation program, with the exception of Region 6, where the TROs were issued.