SRA to allow sugar imports to replace US sugar

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THE Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said it approved an Export Replenishment Program that will allow exporters to import the same volume as they shipped out to the US in order to close the domestic sugar supply gap.

“Under this program, exporters of ‘A’ sugar produced in Crop Year 2019-2020 and exported to the United States (to fill the) sugar quota in Quota Year 2019-2020 may import a corresponding volume of sugar that they exported at a ratio of 1:1 (raw equivalent),” the agency said in sugar order no. 4, series of 2019-2020.

The SRA noted that imports should not exceed the exported “A” sugar, to ensure that total import volumes do not exceed total sugar exports for Crop Year 2019-2020 at 142,160 metric tons raw value (MTRV).

If imports are in raw form, these are required to be brought to a domestic refinery before reclassification.

“Imported sugar for replenishment shall be initially classified as “C” or Reserve sugar in their Clearances for Release of Imported Sugar. All sugar imported under this program shall be stored in an SRA-registered warehouse prior to its reclassification to “B”,” the agency said.

The program covers sugar exported to fill the US quota during the current crop year.

As of the fourth week of December, raw sugar production was down 22.42% at 502,714 metric tons (MT), equivalent to 10.054 million 50-kilo bags. Refined sugar production fell 24.15% to 173,876 MT, or 3.477 million 50-kilo bags.

The SRA output target is 2.096 million MT of sugar this crop year.

The millsite price of sugar was down 6.07% at P1,488.18 per 50-kilo bag, while retail prices ranged from P45 to P50 per kilo.

In a separate statement, the Confederation of Sugar Producers (CONFED) said imports will not resolve the problem of high costs for domestic sugar.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez asked the sugar regulator to allow domestic food processors to import sugar if locally-produced sugar cannot match global sugar prices.

CONFED Spokesperson Raymond V. Montinola said that the government should not pass the burden to reduce sugar prices on farmers. He also noted that farmgate prices are only at an average of P30 per kilo for brown sugar, or P1,500 per 50-kilo bag.

“Prices should be reduced at the retail level and not by the lowly sugar farmer,” Mr. Montinola said.

Former SRA Administrator Bernardo C. Trebol also told the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the SRA to not impose the burden on sugar farmers.

“Sugar farmers know only one thing and that is to grow sugarcane. Our industry survived even with the challenges of progressive lands divided into small parcels land yet we make a conscious effort to consolidate these farms into one functional farm although this is easier said than done,” he said. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang