SUGAR production as of first week of May was up 5% year-on-year with just under four months to go in the crop year, the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said.

SRA said raw sugar production was 2.025 million metric tons (MMT) after the first week of May, up from 1.926 MMT a year earlier. This is equivalent to 40.52 million 50-kilo bags, compared with 38.52 million a year earlier.

The crop year for sugar starts this September and ends in August 2020.

Demand for raw sugar declined 15% to 1.408 MMT.

Total sugarcane milled fell 3.27% year-on-year to 21.305 MMT.

Refined sugar output fell 3.26% year-on-year to 731,318 MT.

The millgate price fell 10.57% to P1,494.01 per 50-kilo bag. The retail price was estimated at P45 to P50 per kilo.

The SRA has reduced its estimate for sugar production for the crop year 2018-2019 to 2.079 million metric tons from 2.225 MMT previously, with gross tonnage declining and favorable weather producing higher yields.

Early this year, SRA Board Member and Millers’ Representative Roland B. Beltran said that sugar production has been heavily affected by the importation of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) over the years, and is now beginning to recover as beverage producers stepped up their adoption of domestic sugar to avoid higher taxes on HFCS.

The bulk of the imports of HFCS are from China. The Philippines was China’s biggest market in 2018, exporting 290,080 tons, or half of its export total.

It has been about two years since the SRA stopped approving import applications for HFCS amid worries the imports were depressing sugar prices. At the start of crop year 2016-2017, sugar prices were at P1,720.23 per bag, falling to P1,153.90 at the end of the period. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang