THE Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said that the Philippines has sufficient output to supply the raw sugar cane export quota allocated by the US amid worries over domestic shortage for bottlers.
SRA administrator Hermenegildo R. Serafica in a phone interview with BusinessWorld said that the US sugar quota has been “all accounted for,” with the fourth and most recent shipment being the largest volume shipped.
“The sugar loaded in Negros [last Thursday] is around 31,125 metric tons (MT). This is quite big, the biggest volume,” he added.
The first shipment was around 30,000 MT, while the second and third shipments were 27,000 MT and 28,000 MT, respectively.
Mr. Serafica said that the remaining balance for the fifth vessel is about 15,155.15 MT.
“I have to check this [volume] with the US [Department of Agriculture] if it’s insufficient. We will [have to] see if it’s too small [and talk] to the traders that own these batches,” he added.
Philippine raw sugar exports must arrive at US ports between Oct. 1, 2018 and Sept. 30, 2019.
The US Trade Representative this month announced that the US has retained the Philippines;’ 142,160 MT export quota for raw cane sugar under the tariff rate quota (TRQ) scheme of the World Trade Organization.
This is the third-largest quota after those of Brazil and the Dominican Republic.
The TRQ sets a volume limit for goods which can enter the US at a lower tariff.
Mr. Serafica said that he has been issuing import clearances “almost every day” to ensure there is enough sugar in the country. However, he also reiterated that only bottlers are facing a drop in supply.
“That’s why we have this importation program: to really arrest the surge of domestic prices and ensure that there is enough supply,” he added.
The agency earlier said it expects to see a drop in production for the current crop year due to weather conditions and as sugarcane farmers take on construction jobs amid rising wages under the government’s infrastructure program.
The new tax law which made beverage makers reformulate their products to contain sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is also driving demand for sugar this year.
Citing SRA data, Mr. Serafica noted that sugar consumption rose 16.9% during the off-milling season. In the industrial sector, sugar consumption likewise increased by 19%, which was not supported by domestic production, which fell.
“The industrial segment saw an increase in sales volume. They thought that sales would drop but apparently it did not happen. We Filipinos love sweet things,” he added.
With the new crop year starting in September, Mr. Serafica noted that the retail prices for sugar are falling slowly, doing away with the need for the suggested retail price system for sugar that the SRA was advocating a few weeks back. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato