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Business

Bongbong Marcos rejects plan to import 300,000 MT of sugar

Danessa Rivera - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Confusion arose yesterday after President Marcos denied approving a plan to import 300,000 metric tons of raw and refined sugar.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said in a statement that the President rejected a plan to import more sugar.

“He is the chairman of the Sugar Regulatory Board and denied this in no uncertain terms,” Cruz-Angeles said in response to the order issued by the Sugar Regulatory Administration clearing the importation of additional sugar to address tight sugar supply and skyrocketing prices.

Industry players could only speculate as to why the President, who chairs the SRA board, thumbed down the importation of additional sugar.

In a text message to The STAR, Luzon Federation of Sugarcane Growers Association (LuzonFed) president Arnel Toreja said the latest events show some anomalies in the order.

“The raw sugar importation should not happen, so it’s possible that it is one reason why the President rejected it,” he said.

However, Torreja said importation could still be delayed since some sugarcane producers have already started harvesting.

Sugar Order No. 4 (SO4), which calls for the importation of 300,000 MT of sugar was posted on SRA’s website yesterday morning but was removed as of this writing.

SO4 was signed by DA Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian for President Marcos, who sits as SRA board chairman; SRA administrator and vice chairman Hermenegildo Serafica, and SRA members Roland Beltran and Gerardo Valderamma Jr.

Last July 29, the SRA conducted a stakeholders’ consultation with sugar planters, millers, refiners, and traders about the need to import sugar and the details of the import program.

Serafica earlier said there is no other way to address the problem but to import sugar.

Beltran, who represents the milling sector, said it has become imperative to import sugar considering the deflated buffer stock and the spiraling prices of sugar.

“Sugar Order No. 4 addresses the high prices of sugar, the requirements of the retail market, the industrials as well as the refineries that allows the importation of raw sugar for tolling purposes,” he said in a text message.

The SRA implemented last February a sugar importation program for 200,000 MT of refined sugar under Sugar Order No. 3 (SO3).

However, its implementation was stalled by temporary restraining orders (TROs) issued by two regional trial courts in Negros Occidental as sought by some sugar groups.

But even as importation under SO3 resumed, the SRA estimates that by Aug. 31, the country’s raw sugar balance would be around -35,231 MT and refined sugar balance would be -20,748.65 MT, significantly lower than the 228,690 MT “B” raw sugar balance and 195,000 MT refined sugar balance from the previous crop year.

Due to the tightening of supply, wholesale price of raw sugar and refined sugar reached P3,250 and P4,400 per 50-kilogram bag, respectively, as of July 31, based on data from SRA’s monitoring unit.

It also showed prevailing retail prices of raw and refined sugar breached P90 per kilogram in public wet markets, both higher than the suggested retail prices for the commodities.

In its final crop estimate, the SRA has projected raw sugar production to drop by 16 percent to 1.8 million MT this crop year from 2.143 million MT in the past season.

It also said that as of July 31, the actual production of raw sugar is 1.792 million MT and of refined sugar is 732,254 MT, down 16.18 percent and 2.84 percent, respectively, from last year’s levels.

This has led sugar retailers and businesses producing sugar containing products to complain over the unavailability of sugar in the market.

In terms of import arrival dates, the SRA said imported raw sugar for consumption should arrive the country no later than Oct. 15 while raw sugar for tolling into refined should arrive on or before Nov. 30.

Meanwhile, imported refined sugar must arrive no later than Nov. 30.

SRA

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