THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will be issuing notices of violation to sugar sellers who breach the prescribed government price ceilings, the Trade department said Wednesday.

At a Palace briefing on Wednesday, DTI Undersecretary for Consumer Protection Ruth B. Castelo noted that “some” sugar retailers have posted sugar prices above P55 pesos per kilo.

According to the latest Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) Price Monitoring Report on the average and prevailing sugar prices in Metro Manila, the retail price per kilo of refined sugar as high as P68.80 on April 2 and April 5. On April 6-9, the highest recorded price was P65 per kilo.

“DTI continues to monitor sugar. We have included that in our list. And we insist that price of sugar should only be at P50, maximum at P55 per kilo. The DTI, in our efforts to help the Department of Agriculture and the SRA, issues notices of violation to retailers selling sugar at a higher price than P55. We inquire from them as to the source and why the price is much higher than the expected retail price,” she said.

Ms. Castelo also said there is no basis for retailers to charge high prices for sugar, considering the current supply situation and stable farmgate prices.

“The SRA has said that there is sufficient supply of sugar in the Philippine market so there is no reason. We understand that some retailers initiated and increased the price,” she said.

In a chance interview, Ms. Castelo also told BusinessWorld that there have been requests from manufacturers to raise the prices of canned sardines and instant noodles.

“The DTI stalled them. At saka nakikiusap kami sa kanila kung pwede wag muna, at kung pwedeng absolute minimum ang requests (We requested a delay, or if any price hikes are resorted to, they should be held to the absolute minimum),” she said.

Pero minsan naman kasi yung mga request nila vina-validate kasi namin, so yung legitimacy ng requests makikita rin namin. (Sometimes we see the legitimacy of the requests). Sometimes, they just want to compete.”

She cited some manufacturers who have not changed price since June 2018, since which period many raw materials have increased in price.

On the effects of El Niño on agricultural products, Ms. Castelo said at the briefing that a number of efforts are being undertaken to address its impact.

“Another meeting will be held at 2 o’clock today to make sure that government is ready to address the effects of El Niño on agricultural products,” she said.

She said vegetables appear to be the most affected.

Gulay talaga iyong binabantayan natin (We are keeping an eye on vegetables) because of the drought… We intend to address this through the NPCC [National Price Coordinating Council] by finding out how we can help farmers continue production or minimize at least the ill effects of El Niño.” — Arjay L. Balinbin