THE Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) is asking the Department of Agriculture (DA) to include sugar in the list of agricultural products that will be subject to the department’s suggested retail price (SRP) system.
In a statement over the weekend, SRA Administrator Hermenegildo R. Serafica said that an SRP for sugar will “ensure that the consumers are protected and not taken advantage of.”
“The high prices of sugar are brought about by the erroneous perception being circulated by enterprising individuals that there is a shortage in sugar,” he added.
“Some are taking advantage of the issue of the lack of sugar for bottlers and using this to raise prices even for standard refined and raw sugar, where there is no shortage.”
The SRA monitors sugar prices in supermarkets three times a week, Mr. Serafica said. It found a grocery chain that has set “exorbitant prices well above the prevailing price” on the sugar, though he did not identify it.
As of June 10, the SRA’s data indicate a prevailing prices for raw sugar in wet markets and supermarkets at P50 per kilogram (kg) and P55 per kg, respectively.
Both the SRA and DA pointed to speculators as the reason behind rising retail prices amid low farmgate prices.
“The shortage is in the bottlers’ grade or premium refined sugar required by beverage companies such as Coke. This type of sugar has very specific quality requirements and standards that can be met by only a handful of sugar refiners in the Philippines,” he added.
“Since it is the end of the milling season, our refiners are constrained by the availability of bagasse to fuel their boilers for refining.”
Bagasse is a byproduct of sugarcane fiber after cane juice is extracted.
In June, the SRA allowed the importation of 200,000 metric ton of sugar.
Last week, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said that the department is considering a review of the sugar importation policy.
He alleged that traders who were supposed to supply sugar to bottlers and processors redirected their stocks to the commercial market instead.
Mr. Piñol also said last week that the DA is set to review other farm commodities “with volatile prices” which can be put under an SRP regime. The DA is looking into poultry and hogs as the next group of agricultural goods for which price ceilings will be set.
Eight commodities — regular-milled rice, some types of fish, onion and garlic — currently are sold under SRP rules. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato