Sugar import plan ‘acceptable’ for buffer stocking

Members of the country’s largest group of sugar industry stakeholders support the government’s plan to import almost half a million metric tons of sugar as it will bring in “an acceptable volume for buffer stocks” to stabilize local supply and prices.

The United Sugar Producers Federation said Thursday the planned importation will not affect the local market as it will be sufficient only to prevent a shortage of the sweetener in the market.

“We are fully supporting the decision of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. to import refined sugar that will hopefully arrest runaway retail prices,” UNIFED President Manuel Lamata said.

Historically, the country must have carryover stocks of 250,000 MT of raw sugar and around 200,000 MT to 250,000 MT of refined sugar at the end of any crop year.

A crop year starts on 1 September and ends on 31 August of the following year. However, the sugar mills and refineries generally stop operations around May to June. The mills start operations for the next season around September to October, while the refineries start around two weeks after the mills.

Balancing act

Lamata, however, reiterated that the Sugar Regulatory Administration should “program well the releases of these imported sugar to ensure that Millgate prices will not be drastically affected to the detriment of the sugar farmers.”

UNIFED said it will leave the discretion of formulating the guidelines and mechanics for importation to the SRA and President Marcos, who serves as Agriculture secretary and SRA chairman.

SRA Board Member Pablo Luiz Azcona, in a radio interview on Wednesday, disclosed that the agency has drafted its import recommendation of an estimated 450,0000 MT of sugar. He said the target import volume will be allocated for domestic or retail use.

Azcona said the SRA continuously seeks stakeholders’ input to ensure that the import plan will not harm the livelihood of local sugar planters.

Citing Bureau of Customs data, the SRA official said that 4,000 MT of refined sugar were recently seized in Batangas from Thailand. The seized commodity is still under customs custody.

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