A MAN repacks sugar in packets at a public market in Taguig City, Aug. 27, 2008. — REUTERS/CHERYL RAVELO

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has confirmed that import clearances were issued to the traders who brought in a shipment of sugar into the port of Batangas on Feb. 9, well before the issuance of a formal sugar order authorizing imports.

The three traders were among those receiving import clearances, alongside those who applied to bring in shipments following the issuance of Sugar Order No. 6, in accordance with the government’s plan to bring in 440,000 metric tons of sugar.

The three traders’ shipments landed in Batangas before Sugar Order No. 6 took effect on Feb. 18.

In a memorandum dated Feb. 27, DA Senior Undersecretary Domingo F. Panganiban directed Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) Administrator David John Thaddeus P. Alba to issue a clearance to the three traders.

All Asia Countertrade, Inc. was allocated 240,000 MT while Edison Lee Marketing Corp. and S&D Sucden Philippines, Inc. were given 100,000 MT each.

Mr. Alba also instructed the Bureau of Customs at the port of Batangas to clear the shipment consigned to All Asian Countertrade, which was to be classified as reserve sugar.

The sugar reserve was ordered by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., to help contain price volatility.

According to the DA, about 13,250 MT of sugar has arrived thus far. The import clearances are valid until March 29.

Mr. Panganiban has said that he selected three “capable” companies after he interpreted a memorandum from the Office of the Executive Secretary to mean that imports have been authorized.

The formal sugar order was released by the SRA on Feb. 15. Under Section 4, 200,000 MT of imported sugar “shall be allocated to consumers” while 240,000 MT was to serve as buffer stock.

According to Mr. Panganiban, the initial release of the imported sugar for consumer use is in two weeks and is expected to ease sugar prices to P80-P85 per kilogram.

“This is the sugar that will lower the price of commercial sugar in the Philippines,” Mr. Panganiban told reporters by phone on Thursday.

DA price monitors put the price of refined sugar at P87-P110 per kilogram. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera