Sugar level down

What made it a concern for everybody is how the sugar shortage had driven up food and drink prices — a deficit that cuts deep because the government itself has pronounced it ‘artificial’ due to hoarding.

Do you like your coffee black? Maybe it’s time to shift from those sugary concoctions that won’t do your body any good anyway.

Starbucks Philippines this week announced a P5 increase in prices across all its beverages as part of its regular price review.

Not that it may matter to families subsisting on rice and noodles daily, but this little news should affect how sugar impacts our blood.

Weeks ago, Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc. suspended operations in several of its manufacturing plants following the sugar order mess that got several government officials in sticky molasses.

Jobs were likely affected; production and profits, no doubt.

Soon after, other soft drinks makers announced the same. Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines Inc. and ARC Refreshments Corp. echoed the problem they now face with a shortage of premium refined sugar, leading a Coca-Cola official to say, “Not all sugars are the same.”

What made it a concern for everybody is how the sugar shortage had driven up food and drink prices — a deficit that cuts deep because the government itself has pronounced it “artificial” due to hoarding.

Hoarding remains a problem that has kept Customs on its feet through various administrations, which shows this sugar mess runs more profound than it looks.

All these, plus the resignations that led our eyes to the Sugar Regulatory Authority, gave us a glimpse of just how the agriculture sector is mired in mess, probably similar to that of the sugar industry.

Sugar Order 4, which would have allowed the importation of 300,000 tons of sugar, was signed without President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s approval — one that shocked us to know this early in the game and still one big question mark that has not been thoroughly answered.

What was Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez’s role in it, exactly? For the President’s closest official to have ignored invitations to attend the Senate investigations until he was subpoenaed for the last does not speak well of transparency under the Marcos administration.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee wrapped the sugar importation fiasco last week.

A 10-page report, the committee decided, would “recommend the filing of charges against specific individuals over the release of SO 4.

Such planned charges have been opposed by the minority, bringing back the issue to the role that some key people played in the mess.

Meanwhile, with SO 2, this time signed by President Marcos, only 150,000 metric tons will be brought into the country, half of which will be for industrial users and the rest for consumers.

While the upcoming sugar imports could help with the supply problem and even lower the prices of sugar in the local market, the fact is little grains of doubt remain that anyone can fix the entire convoluted system.


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