Home Top News DA to allow 200,000 MT of refined sugar imports

DA to allow 200,000 MT of refined sugar imports

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GRANULATED WHITE SUGAR and sugar cubes are seen in this picture illustration taken on Dec. 16, 2018. — REUTERS

By Adrian H. Halili, Reporter

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it is planning to allow imports of around 200,000 metric tons (MT) of refined sugar to fill a projected supply gap during the off-milling season.

“We will have an importation of sugar by September. We will have an arrival of at least 200,000 MT of refined sugar,” Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr. told reporters late on Wednesday.

He said the amount of imports “can be a little bit more” to address the expected supply deficit before the harvest and refining season.

Mr. Tiu Laurel said the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) is expected to issue a sugar order by next month.

“The current stocks will decrease by August or September. We have a gap for 200,000 MT by September or October, then milling will continue again,” he added.

SRA data as of June 9 showed the national sugar inventory rose by 29.3% for raw sugar during the 2023-2024 crop year to 436,229 MT from 337,286 MT in the previous crop year. Stocks of refined sugar jumped by 14.1% to 492,985 MT during the current crop year from 432,215 MT in the previous crop year.

Separately, SRA Administrator Pablo Luis S. Azcona said in a Viber message that Sugar Order No. 2 (SO2) allowed stakeholders to pre-qualify for importation if they had purchased local sugar.

The program called for the voluntary purchase of domestically produced sugar to stabilize farmgate and retail prices. Participants were eligible to avail themselves of an allocation for a future import program.

Mr. Azcona said the agency had already pre-qualified and pre-allocated participants based on their support for local sugar farmers.

Last year, farmgate prices for raw sugar dropped to about P2,300-P2,500 per 50-kilogram (kg) bag, well below the SRA’s trading estimate of P3,000 per 50-kg bag.

Mr. Azcona said that after SO2 was issued, farmgate prices rose to around P2,700-P2,800 per 50-kg bag, which drove retail prices to P73-P100 per kilo of sugar.

As of June 26, the retail price of refined sugar in Metro Manila markets stood at P74 to P92 per kilo, while brown sugar was between P62 and P92 per kilo, according to the DA’s price monitoring bulletin.

“We will activate an import plan should the trigger stock level be reached to ensure a stable supply and stable price for our retail and industrial consumers, as well as to ensure that our farmers will not be affected,” Mr. Azcona said.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. had recommended maintaining sugar stocks at 185,000 MT to 200,000 MT, equivalent to a two-month buffer.

Mr. Azcona said the SRA will meet with the Agriculture secretary by the first week of July to determine the need to activate the importation plan.

“We also have to bear in mind that the five million farmers, farm workers, their families, and people dependent on the sugarcane industry are also 100% retail consumers,” Mr. Azcona said.

Manuel R. Lamata, president of the United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines, said that the sugar imports could potentially plug any shortages before the harvest season.

“Harvest this coming crop year will be delayed due to El Niño and when we were consulted about this matter, we approved the proposal,” Mr. Lamata said in a Viber message.

Ateneo de Manila economics professor Leonardo A. Lanzona said sugar production was affected by the El Niño weather event, which necessitated the importation of refined sugar.

“However, the overall policy of plugging supply gaps and taming prices through imports is fundamentally unsustainable. Unless we can export other products, we may not have enough foreign currency to pay for these imports,” Mr. Lanzona said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

The US Department of Agriculture projected that Philippines’ raw sugar production would be flat this year at 1.85 million MT due to the effects of El Niño.

The regulator had said that El Niño has greatly damaged the sugarcane crops for the October 2024 season.

It added that the areas of Batangas, Southern Negros, and Mindanao have reported extensive sugarcane damage due to the dry conditions.

Federation of Free Farmers National Manager Raul Q. Montemayor said that agencies should validate the needed volume, timing, and manner of distribution for sugar imports through consultations with stakeholders.

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