Latest sugar import order draws mixed reactions

Photo by Analy Labor

The head of the country’s largest business organization, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has lauded the decision of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to import 64,050 metric tons of refined sugar, although some groups have opposed it.

“That was expected because we have heard that there’s a shortage. It is because the demand for sugar is peaking during the ‘ber’ months. So, it’s good,” said PCCI president George Barcelon in a telephone interview.

“With this importation, sugar prices will be balanced in the coming days. The prices of sugar should be lower than P60. But until now, we have not reached that level,” he said.

Based on the December 2022 price monitoring of the Sugar Regulatory Administration, the prevailing price of refined sugar in Metro Manila should be P4,500 to P4,700 per 50-kilogram bag or P94 per kilo.

But prices of refined sugar in supermarkets and wet markets are now ranging from P105 to P110.

In a separate interview, Joey Concepcion, president and CEO of RFM Corporation, also backed the importation.

“Yes, it’s a good move. Sugar prices above P4,000 during the milling season will affect so many consumers, companies, and the general public during this period. We normally start to hedge our annual requirement but at P4,000, that is extremely high,” he said.

“(Per bag at) P2,520 is the price that we hedged last year, good until this February. This is where sugar prices should be,” he added.

Surprised by decision

The Department of Agriculture earlier said that the importation of sugar this month would lower refined sugar prices.

Also on Thursday, Philippine National Federation of Sugar Workers Secretary General Butch Lozande said they were surprised by the decision of the President’s order for the abrupt importation of 64,050 metric tons of refined sugar, saying that is untimely since local millers are in full swing, meaning there is enough supply.

“Our position remains that there should be no importation this year. We should determine that by next year, by March or April 2023, since we already saw the approximate production for the year 2022-2023,” he said.

He even suspected that price manipulation is happening right now.

“We suspect there’s manipulation in supply and pricing since the price had already gone down then it went up again in November, entering December. When it should be going down since we are in full swing in terms of milling. In terms of supply, there’s nothing to worry about because all millers nationwide are operational.

The Sugarcane Producers Federations, an organization representing those who churn out 50 percent of local sugar productions, said importation should be the government’s last resort.

“Even as we urge the government to engage in earnest dialogue with the industry to resolve this and other vital issues, we would like to reiterate at this time our call for DA, SRA and DTI to guard against excessive retail prices that are not in sync with prevailing Millgate prices,” the group said.

Stabilize prices

The group’s position was manifested in a letter signed by Confederation of Sugar Producers Association, Inc. president Aurelio Gerardo J. Valderrama Jr., National Federation of Sugarcane Planters Inc. president Enrique D. Rojas, and Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers Inc. president Danilo Abelita.

Based on DA Memorandum Order 77, Series of 2022, signed by Agriculture Senior undersecretary Domingo Panganiban on 20 December 2022, Minimum Access Volume Secretariat officer-in-charge and Executive Director Jocelyn Salvador was mandated to swiftly convene the MAV Advisory Council, in line with Marcos’ order for the DA “to take action and to stabilize sugar prices,” as the President was “concerned” with the “very high inflation rate.”

The annual inflation rate in the Philippines rose to 8.0 percent in November 2022 from 7.7 percent in October, topping market forecasts of 7.8 percent but within the Bangko Sentra ng Pilipinas target of between 7.4 percent to 8.2 percent for the month.


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