Govt eyes importation of 450,000MT of sugar

A vendor at the Paco Market in Manila stacks packs of sugar on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023. PHOTO BY Mike Alquinto

(UPDATE) AN official of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) on Wednesday disclosed that the government is eyeing the importation of 450,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar this year to ensure a steady supply in the market.

In a radio interview, SRA Board member and planters' representative Pablo Luis Azcona said that the figures came from Malacañang. The SRA has already recommended the timetable and other details for the importation of the sweeteners.

Azcona said that the local sugar production is now pegged at 1.813 million metric tons (MMT), but it is still not enough to meet the country's demand.

“It is not enough. At the moment, Malacañang is recommending the importation of around 450,000 [MT], that is the estimate. But then, the importation already includes the President's directive of a buffer stock,” Azcona added.

He clarified that the importation would arrive after the ongoing milling season.

“The importation usually arrives after the local production,” he noted.

According to Azcona, a draft recommendation was already submitted to Malacañang.

“We are just awaiting instructions from Malacañang if our recommendations are okay. There is also an ongoing consultation with the stakeholders to get their inputs on the schedule or volume of importation,” Azcona added.

Azcona explained that the milling season will last until June 2023.

“Our milling usually starts September or October, with October as the ideal. The peak is from October to June, so now we are at our peak of the milling season,” he said.

According to Azcona, the SRA conducts its importation plan every January.

“This is normal. Every January, we conduct the survey, the estimate and projection. That's where we start to make the import plan for the year-end,” he explained.

According to Azcona, the prevailing price of refined sugar is at P90 per kilo.

He said that based on the consultation with the stakeholders, they do not oppose the importation if it is done after the milling season.

“As a planter representative, our farmers are never against importation. What the farmers are asking is to ensure that any importation is done after the milling as after the harvest, the stocks are no longer at the hands of the farmers,” Azcona added.

At the same time, Azcona said that prior to the submission of the recommendation on sugar imports, the SRA requested data from the farmers' groups.

“The data is openly shared to all the farmer groups. We sought their recommendation and when they received our request for comment, we also requested data to make an accurate recommendation,” Azcona noted.

He said that based on the recommendation of the SRA, the 450,000 MT of imported sugar will cover the local consumption and needs of the industrial users.

“Based on history, the importation is both for retail and industrial use. It was only with the previous importation last year when the SRA allowed the importation that was purely industrial. The consumers did not feel the effect of the importation,” Azcona added.

Azcona said that President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. wants to make sure that the sugar farmers would not be affected by the sugar importation.

On the other hand, he said that the SRA can provide analysis if the P240 million worth of smuggled sugar seized at the Batangas port is fit for human consumption.

“If they need the analysis, the SRA can do it as sugar has a long shelf life unlike other agricultural products,” Azcona said.

SRA Administrator David Alba on Tuesday said that he will recommend to the Chief Executive to authorize the sale of confiscated smuggled sugar at the Kadiwa stores as millions of illegally source1d sweeteners were seized by the Department of Agriculture and Bureau of Customs.

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