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Direct sugar imports mulled for food firms

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Direct sugar imports mulled for food firms
Another area that has to be looked into, the President said, is direct importation by food manufacturers, with the approval of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), as part of emergency measures to address current industry concerns,” read a statement released yesterday by the Presidential News Desk, citing Marcos’ pronouncement during a meeting with food manufacturers at Malacañang last Monday.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The government is considering allowing food manufacturers to import sugar directly, President Marcos said, as he vowed to undertake measures to increase the supply of the commodity.

“Another area that has to be looked into, the President said, is direct importation by food manufacturers, with the approval of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), as part of emergency measures to address current industry concerns,” read a statement released yesterday by the Presidential News Desk, citing Marcos’ pronouncement during a meeting with food manufacturers at Malacañang last Monday.

While there is a need for the country to increase sugar production in the future, the current pressing concerns of food producers must be addressed, the statement quoted the President as saying.

Industry players present during the meeting said the government must act now if it is considering importation for industrial use since global suppliers may allocate their produce to other markets.

Marcos described the sugar supply problem as “worrisome.”

“It has become a worrisome problem. We are doing all of these things to protect the jobs of workers in those industries,” the President said.

“So we are studying several measures that we can take to immediately increase the supply of sugar in the country,” he added.

The administration is also talking to traders to lower the prices of sugar.

“Hopefully, we can get some concessions with the traders so that at least the pricing will be reasonable. The concern is the supply right now. I’ll make sure that there is sufficient supply in the country so that you can operate at full capacity,” Marcos said.

In a Facebook post, Marcos said his administration would work out a system for increasing the supply of sugar.

“It’s our intention to have smooth flow of business and secured jobs for our countrymen in the industry of fast-moving consumer goods or FMCG, so we are studying a clear system of increasing sugar supply,” he said in Filipino.

Three large beverage companies have confirmed a shortage of bottler’s grade or premium refined sugar.

“We confirm our industry is facing a shortage of Premium Refined Sugar – a key ingredient in many of our products,” Coca-Cola Beverage Philippines Inc. Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines Inc. and ARC Refreshments Corp. said in a joint statement yesterday.

“We are working closely with other stakeholders of the industry and the government to address the situation,” the group added.

In February, the SRA approved Sugar Order No. 3, which allowed the importation of 200,000 MT of refined sugar by industrial users amid tightening supply in the country.

This included 100,000 MT of standard grade refined sugar and 100,000 MT of bottler’s grade refined sugar.

The issuance of SO3 in February, however, was met with temporary restraining orders (TROs) issued by two regional trial courts (RTCs) in Negros Occidental in response to petitions filed by some sugar groups.

In May, the SRA began processing applications from Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao traders for the sugar importation program, with the exception of Region 6, where the TROs were issued.

The SRA estimates that by the end of the month, the country’s raw sugar balance would be around -35,231 MT, lower than the 228,690 MT in the last crop year.

Similarly, refined sugar balance is also expected to drop to -20,748.65 MT, lower than the 195,000 MT in the previous crop year.

Last Sunday, Marcos said the government may import additional sugar in October in anticipation of insufficient supply by that time. He said 150,000 metric tons might be more than enough for the entire year.

The President also gave assurance that the government would not import more than what the country needs. However, it may be forced to do so if the supply is low to prevent prices from going up.

Last week, Malacañang described as “illegal” Sugar Order No. 4, which called for the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar and called for an investigation.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles earlier said Marcos, who also chairs the Sugar Regulatory Board, did not approve the issuance of the order.

The controversy prompted the resignation of agriculture undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian who signed the order for Marcos. Other signatories to the order, namely SRA administrator Hermenegildo Serafica and SRA board member Roland Beltran, have also stepped down from their posts. – Catherine Talavera

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