Sugar groups want 350,000 MT importation

February 1, 2023
Philippine Star|

MANILA, Philippines — Sugar industry groups want the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to trim the volume of its planned sugar import to 350,000 metric tons (MT) from 450,000 MT.

In a letter to SRA, the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP) and the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers (PANAYFED) also proposed that the importation be done in two tranches and after the milling season.

The groups said the volume of importation they are pushing is projected to cover buffer stock of two months as promised by President Marcos.

These should arrive after the close of the current milling season but before the start of the coming milling season to minimize its effect on mill gate prices when regular milling begins in September.

They also urged the SRA to program the importation in two tranches of 175,000 MT for each shipment to arrive in July and August, when almost all sugar mills shall have already stopped operations.

“SRA should specify what volume of the importation will be refined and raw sugar, based on assessment of market requirements, and what portion will go to the domestic market and what will be earmarked for industrial and institutional consumers, with safeguards to ensure that the sugar goes to the intended markets,” NFSP and PANAYFED said.

But the SRA said it is sticking to its 450,000 MT importation plan, calling it the best compromise figure. But it assured industry players that any sugar coming in would be tagged as reserves.

The NFSP’s and PANAYFED’s position was in collaboration with the Confederation of Sugar Growers Associations (CONFED), which called on the SRA last Friday to adopt a more conservative volume of importation.

CONFED, NFSP and PANAYFED recently organized a sugar producers’ coalition called the Sugar Council to serve as venue where sugar producers and other concerned stakeholders can discuss issues and craft recommendations for submission to policymakers.

“There are sectors in the farmers’ side saying we should subtract [the volume] a bit. There are those saying it is the right amount. We are currently reviewing all the…projections… But right now, 450,000 MT seems to be the proper compromise in the meantime,” SRA Board member-planters’ representative Pablo Luis Azcona said at a public hearing yesterday.

He clarified, however, that the proposal submitted to the DA and President Marcos was purely for refined sugar.

“There are requests from some refiners to bring in some raw sugar to jumpstart their refineries come September or October. But for now, what we are studying is refined,” Azcona said.

As for the special allocation sought by soft drinks manufacturers, the SRA is awaiting the decision of the Department of Agriculture (DA) on such request.

“We already drafted the sugar order. We are waiting for the DA to come up with a decision to allow or disallow the special allocation,” Azcona said.

“The main idea of government [for this importation program] is to have the physical sugar available in the Philippines. What SRA will do is monitor the outstanding stocks of local sugar. And once we anticipate there will no longer be local sugar, we will slowly release from the 450,000 MT. It will be a purely reserve stock,” Azcona said.

He also clarified that some of the imported sugar may be released to stabilize the retail price of the commodity.

“Retail prices of sugar have been going up because everybody is speculating a shortage in the end. Speculation is driving the prices up. If need be, if the administration’s economic advisers deem so, we might have to release a small portion. But the order of the DA and the President is to make sure farmgate prices do not dive sharply,” Azcona said. – Gilbert Bayoran