THE Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) renewed its call for liberalizing the sugar importing process, saying that market forces need to determine prices amid protections for domestic producers and suspicions of market manipulation at the wholesale and distribution level.

“I believe the liberalization is required to allow market forces to dictate the price,” PCCI Chairman George T. Barcelon said in a mobile message on Tuesday, after being asked for comment.

The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said there is no reason for high sugar prices as warehouses are currently overflowing.

The PCCI has been calling for the liberalization of sugar imports modeled on the opening up of the rice market, defending the interests of the food and beverage industry which is a major user of the sweetener and passes on any high ingredient costs to consumers.

“If the supply is abundant I agree with SRA that there is no reason for prices to rise. But the fundamental factor of free sourcing is better for all players concerned,” Mr. Barcelon said.

Asked if this might lead to sugar flooding the market, Mr. Barcelon replied, “Maari (It could).”

On Sunday, SRA Administrator Hermenegildo R. Serafica said that “sugar stock balance is at an all-time high of over 1.1 million metric tons (MT) that is 143% of last year’s stock balance during the same period.”

Mr. Serafica added: “Mill gate prices have been holding steady between P1,450-P1,550 for the past five months. In fact, this week’s average mill gate price is at P1,454. This is already on the low side compared to sugar prices for the past five years.”

“Those who are spreading rumors of sugar prices increasing are trying to manipulate the market so they can increase their profits at the expense of the consumers and producers,” according to Mr. Serafica. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio