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Government urged to recall sugar imports approval

Catherine Talavera - The Philippine Star
Government urged to recall sugar imports approval
In a statement, former SRA board representative for planters Dino Yulo said local raw sugar prices have already dropped by around 10 percent in most mills.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — A former Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) board member, as well as sugar planters, are urging the government to recall the order allowing the importation of 200,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar, saying raw sugar prices have already declined.

In a statement, former SRA board representative for planters Dino Yulo said local raw sugar prices have already dropped by around 10 percent in most mills.

The SRA earlier issued Sugar Order 3, which allows the importation of 100,000 MT of standard grade refined sugar and 100,000 MT of bottlers’ grade refined sugar, to address the projected tightness in stock at the end of the milling season.

Industry figures showed sugar prices dropped by around P99 to P230 per 50-kilo bag (Lkg) of raw sugar at week ending sugar bidding on Feb. 6, two days after the SRA order was issued.

Sugar prices at Victorias Milling Co. decreased by P230 to P1,880 per Lkg.

Prices at Binalbagan Isabela Planters Association (BIPA)-Biscom also dropped by P150 from P1,885 per Lkg in the previous week.

Weekly declines in the prices of raw sugar were also recorded in Associacion de Agricultores de la Carlota y Pontevedra Inc. – URC Carlota by P145 per Lkg and Lopez Sugar Central by P140 per Lkg, among others.

Yulo attributed the huge drop to the “ill-timed announcement of SRA to import.”

He said a drop by as much as 10 percent has a huge impact on the livelihood of small sugar farmers that comprises more than 80 percent of sugar producers.

“These small farmers are barely surviving due to the high cost of farm inputs, particularly fertilizers and fuel, that has been increasing steadily each week and will now suffer more because of this drop in sugar prices,” he said.

Associacion de Agricultores de la Carlota y Pontevedra Inc. (AALCPI), the biggest independent sugar group in the country, with over 10,000 planter-members, decried the results of the sugar bidding, emphasizing that it was artificially driven down by the announcement of the sugar order.

AALCPI president Roberto Cuenca said they are hard-pressed to explain to their members the results of the sugar bidding last week, along with their members’ request for SRA to act on their appeal for a price freeze on farm inputs.

“This made the situation worse because since last year, we have appealed to the SRA, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry, yet there has been no action. Instead, SRA released Sugar Order 3 knowing that we are in the peak of the milling season and this led to the drop of prices,” Cuenca said.

The group joined other sugar federations in seeking the recall of the sugar order.

Cuenca earlier said there was no proper consultation with industry stakeholders regarding the sugar order, opposing earlier statements of SRA administrator Hermenegildo Serafica that consultations were held before the issuance of the order.

“We were never informed, and yet he knows we are the biggest group in so far as membership is concerned, and mostly of small sugar farmers,”Cuenca said.

“He (Serafica) also knows we are in the midst of milling season and any importation order now will have a ripple effect,” Cuenca said, in agreement with other sugar federations that said the issuance of the sugar order is ill-timed.

Serafica said stakeholders posed no objection to the importation program while they recommended its mechanics, type of sugar to be imported, and arrival dates of shipments, among others.

Cuenca said they were informed that most producers SRA consulted agreed, but only in tranches of 50,000 MT.

He said the country has enough supply, adding that if there was a projection that supply would be tight in a few months, an initial order of 50,000 MT would suffice.

Serafica said that after assessing the damage caused by Typhoon Odette to sugarcane crops, sugar stocks at warehouses, as well as facilities and equipment of sugar mills and refineries in key sugar milling districts, the SRA recalibrated its pre-final crop estimate of raw sugar production to 2.072 million MT, lower than the earlier projection of 2.099 million MT.

“According to SRA’s projections on sugar supply and demand, this will give the country a very tight sugar stock balance at the end of milling, which will not be enough to cover the two to three months demand for refined sugar in between the milling seasons,” Serafica said.

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