THE Department of Agriculture said on Wednesday that it is expediting the import of 64,050 metric tons (MT) of refined sugar to stabilize prices.

In a memorandum order dated Dec. 20 and signed by Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Domingo F. Panganiban, the department will convene the minimum access volume (MAV) advisory council to expedite imports via the MAV mechanism.

“In this regard you are hereby directed to immediately convene the minimum access volume advisory council and expedite the importation of 64,050 metric tons of refined sugar,” according to the order addressed to Jocelyn A. Salvador, officer-in-charge executive director of the MAV Secretariat.

Mr. Panganiban said that President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., who also serves as the Agriculture Secretary, authorized the imports, citing the high price of sugar, confectionery items, and desserts in November.

Last month, price growth in sugar, confectionery items, and desserts was 38%, accelerating from 34.4% in October, according to consumer price index data.

The Philippines Statistics Authority said rising food prices bought inflation to a 14-year high of 8% in November, against 7.7% in October and 3.7% in November 2021.

In September, the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said that the government does not plan to import any more sugar for the rest of the year as the government is expecting domestic sugar output to boost inventories towards the end of the year.

In a statement on Wednesday, the United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines (UNIFED) is appealing the import decision.

“The UNIFED is appealing to the President to stop the move to import sugar while sugar milling is at its peak,” UNIFED President Manuel R. Lamata said in a statement. 

Mr. Lamata said the sugar harvest is at its peak, with raw and refined sugar stocks abundant.

“We see no need to importing sugar at this time. We are appealing to the President to halt this… until after an assessment of sugar stocks following the end of the milling season,” he said.

Mr. Lamata noted that in the past three weeks sugar prices have fallen.

According to the SRA, sugar prices in Metro Manila as of Dec. 2 were P84.29 per kilo for raw sugar; P87.57 for washed sugar; and P98.07 for refined sugar.

This is slightly lower than the P90 to over P100 a kilo observed by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Danilo V. Fausto, president of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Inc. said in a statement that imports are necessary to help bring prices down.

“For as long as we only import what is needed. Hopefully it brings down the price. Price is a function of supply and demand,” Mr. Fausto said. — Ashley Erika O. Jose