AT LEAST 24,500 metric tons (MT) of imported sugar will be released onto the domestic market this week, according to a Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) official.

Pablo Luis S. Azcona, board member and planter’s representative to the SRA, told BusinessWorld via phone that about 16,000 MT of refined sugar was released last week, while the 24,500 MT tranche is in the process of reclassification.

He added that about 89,000 MT of refined sugar has landed in the country out of the 440,000 MT authorized to be imported by Sugar Order No. 6 (SO 6).

SO 6 required that 100,000 MT of refined sugar be landed “as soon as possible” with another 100,000 MT arriving before April 1.

The remaining 240,000 MT is to be maintained as a buffer stock, as ordered by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., who also serves as the Secretary of Agriculture.

According to Mr. Azcona, the suggested retail price for refined sugar remains between P85 and P90.

“The SRA is working with the (Department of Agriculture) to establish the retail price. Ang kulang na lang namin (the only thing missing) is the stakeholder’s consultation which was scheduled last week but then postponed,” he said.

Over the weekend, the United Sugar Producers Federation appealed to the government to reject a proposal by beverage companies to directly import refined sugar.

Mr. Azcona said that the supply of refined sugar might not be a problem due to the arrival of the imports, with supply expected to have improved 57% year on year. 

“If it’s a supply problem, as of now we have (ongoing) arrival of 440,000 (MT of sugar), so the supply might not be a problem, (the beverage industry) might have other problems,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Azcona said that shipments of 4,000 MT of sugar seized by the Bureau of Customs from the port of Batangas in 800,000 550-kilo bags were approved for sale in the government’s Kadiwa stores, where produce sells for subsidized prices. 

He said Kadiwa could serve as the outlet for all seized sugar in the future.

“I think since the approval specified a volume, we might need to request new approvals for the rest. But the trust of the administration and the DA is to try to sell the seized smuggled sugar onto the retail market,” he said.

According to the DA’s price monitoring report on Tuesday, refined sugar sells at retail for between P86 and P110 per kilo. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera