Sugar issue adequately addressed



The Manila Times

Special Feature

ONE of the most important issues President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. addressed in his first 100 days as Agriculture secretary is the sugar importation issue, which saw producers of the commodity and manufacturers of products using sugar airing opposite views. However, even if there was a clamor to import 300,000 to 400,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar, President Marcos took the best step by authorizing the importation of 150,000 MT of sugar to plug the 154,000MT gap in local sugar supply. Hence, the Department of AgricultureSugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has issued Sugar Order (SO) No. 2 or the “Sugar Import Program for Crop Year 2022–2023” SO No. 2 aims to stabilize domestic sugar supply and prices at reasonable levels. The program covers a maximum volume of 150,000 metric tons (MT) of refined sugar, wherein 75,000 MT will be allocated to industrial users and the other 75,000 MT to consumers. “The intention is that the imported sugar shall be open and available for consumption by all industrial users and consumers,” the Order stated. With the approval of President Marcos as Agriculture secretary and SRA board chair, the import program shall be open to qualified SRA international sugar traders. The applicants for importation and allocation are required to commit that they will purchase an equal volume of locally produced refined sugar as the volume of imported sugar that may be allocated to them through the program. Should they purchase locally-produced raw sugar, the conversion shall be on a 1:1.2 basis. Moreover, participants to the program shall ensure that their allocated volumes shall arrive in the country not later than Nov. 15, 2022. The deadline for the complete distribution of their import allocations to respective clients for industrial use and/or direct consumption shall be within a month from the said date, while the deadline for their purchase of local sugar shall be on Aug. 31, 2023. In addition, the imported sugar shall only be stored in SRA-registered warehouses or directly to the declared industrial user’s warehouse or consumers’ warehouse. The Sugar Order also involves a performance bond that shall be released upon submission of proof of the required local sugar purchase. It states that every import allocation shall be subject to a bond of P750 per 50-kilogram bag. Based on the Sugar Policy, the total raw sugar production for the said crop year is estimated at 1.876 MT, while the total domestic raw sugar withdrawal for the same period is estimated at 2.03 MT. The DA Bantay Presyo team reported that the prevailing retail prices of sugar in Metro Manila markets are at P95 for refined sugar, P75 for washed sugar, and P70 for brown sugar. Sugar millers vow modernization For its part, the Philippine Sugar Millers Association (PSMA) gave an assurance that it will modernize sugar mills amid concerns on the age and competitiveness of local industry’s facilities. PSMA Deputy Director for Programs Oscar Cortes said that sugar factories in the country have already been undergoing rehabilitation, and modernization of mills started with the privatization of government-owned facilities and the inclusion of the sugar industry in the Investment Priorities Plan (IPP) in the 1990s. He added that mills have invested P20 billion on new production systems and operations. “The Sugar Regulatory Administration keeps track of all new equipment installed by the mills. These are all properly documented,” Cortes added. So far, there were 41 sugar mills when the modernization program started in the 1990s. Industry reports published by the SRA showed that sugar recovery has increased from 78 percent in the 1990s to more than 81 percent in the last three years.