Gov’t to import 450,000 MT sugar

A worker arranges packs of sugar in a grocery store on Onyx Street, Paco, Manila yesterday. The national government is eyeing the importation of 450,000 metric tons of sugar to maintain a consistent supply of sugar as local production is now pegged at 1.813 million metric tons.

After President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. rejected a proposal to import 300,000 metric tons of sugar last year, the Sugar Regulatory Administration on Wednesday said the government is now eyeing the importation of 450,000 MT of the commodity this year to maintain a consistent supply in the market.

SRA Board Member and planters representative Pablo Luis Azcona, citing data from Malacañang, said local sugar production was now pegged at 1.813 million metric tons.

He clarified in a radio interview that the SRA had suggested a timeline and other specifics for importing sugar because current production levels were not enough to meet domestic demand.

“(The supply) is not enough. At the moment, Malacañang is recommending the importation of around 450,000 (metric tons). That is the estimate but then the importation includes the President’s directive to include a buffer stock,” Azcona added.

The SRA, he said, usually has to import sugar every January.

He said sugar milling usually starts in October and the peak season is from October to June.

“This is normal every January. We conduct the survey, we conduct the estimate, and the projection every January. That’s when we start to make the import plan for the year-end,” he added.

Azcona said Malacañang had already received a draft recommendation.

“If our suggestions and recommendations are okay, then there is an ongoing consultation with the stakeholders to get their inputs on the schedule or volume (of importation),” he said.

Last year, the SRA said the government planned to import at least 300,000 metric tons of sugar as the price of refined sugar in the local market had reached P100 per kilo.

But President Marcos, who also serves as the Agriculture Secretary and chairman of the Sugar Regulatory Board, thumbed down the proposal.

“He is the chairman of the Sugar Regulatory Board and denied this in no uncertain terms,” former Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles had said in a statement in August.

Smuggled sugar
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture on Wednesday said it would sell newly confiscated smuggled sugar in Kadiwa stores, following the Sugar Regulatory Administration’s suggestion earlier this week.

In a television interview, DA deputy spokesperson Rex Estoperez said the 4,000 metric tons of refined white sugar confiscated in Batangas last week does not require a phytosanitary certificate.
He said it would only require an import permit from the SRA to be sold at the DA-run Kadiwa Stores.

“The (agencies concerned) have notified the President that the confiscated sugar in Batangas and other regions will be sold in the Kadiwa stores after the protocol is completed, provided we write to the Department of Finance, which oversees the Bureau of Customs,” Estoperez said.

“We can sell the sugar in the Kadiwa centers and perhaps even in the markets after the protocol is completed,” he added.

Selling smuggled sugar won’t affect market prices

In a separate television interview, Estoperez said the government’s plan to sell 4,000 metric tons of smuggled sugar in Kadiwa outlets would not affect the price of sugar in the market.
Estoperez also assured the public that the sugar sold at Kadiwa outlets is safe.

“It’s not like onions or other perishable commodities that could be contaminated with pests from other countries,” he said.

According to a report published by the BoC, a marine vessel carrying 4,000 metric tons of Thailand white refined sugar was recently confiscated at the Port of Batangas.

The shipment the MV Sunward transported to the country from Thailand was worth an estimated P261 million, or about P65 per kilogram.

Alba said the public “may enjoy refined sugar at a lower cost,” if President Marcos, who is also the agriculture secretary and chair of the SRA board, allows the seized sugar to be sold through Kadiwa.

Alba thanked Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz and the BoC enforcement section for their vigilance in capturing the illegal sugar.

The SRA also warned traders who collude with smugglers that the whole power of the law will go after them.

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