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Sugar planters offer concessions on imports, retail prices

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PHILSTAR

SUGAR PLANTERS have offered to sell refined sugar at P48 per kilo, and agreed to the import of up to 300,000 metric tons of sugar to bring down retail prices, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said in a statement Sunday.

Mr. Piñol said the planters want to confine the imports to the consumer market only.

“The sugar planters said that they will not ask for royalty payments unlike in previous importations,” Mr. Piñol added.

Mr. Piñol said the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has issued import permits to planters associations only for the permits to be sold on to traders, allowing some of the latter to control the price of imported sugar.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PCCI) has called on the SRA through the Department of Agriculture (DA) to allow domestic food processors to import 50% of their sugar requirements, or an initial volume of 100,000 metric tons.

“Imported sugar-based food products from ASEAN now enjoy preferential tariffs of 5% under the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA). These food processors buy their sugar at the equivalent of P26 to P28 per kilo. These ASEAN products have been coming into the country and threatening similar domestic products with sugar inputs priced from P60 to P65 per kilo,” PCCI Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberto C. Amores said in a statement.




“There are approximately 4,000 to 5,000 domestic food processors using sugar as an ingredient, who are part of more than 90% of MSMEs (micro, small, and medium enterprises), and benefiting 50 to 60 million consumers and stakeholders that would bear the brunt of high cost of sugary products, compared to the 50,000 to 60,000 farmers, who can be shifted to high-value crop production. We sincerely hope that the SRA will heed our request to import,” Mr. Amores added.

Asked if it is possible to agree to the request, Mr. Piñol replied, “[It] depends if we have shortages. We cannot just import sugar if there is no shortfall in production,” he said.

“We do not want to jeopardize the interests of our sugarcane farmers by carelessly allowing importation beyond what is actually needed,” Mr. Piñol added.

In a statement on Sunday, SRA Board Planters’ Representative Emilio Bernardino L. Yulo said that in their decision to allow the importation, they require the SRA to still be in charge of the situation, and emphasized that the imported sugar should only benefit the consumers.

“We have agreed to a calibrated and pre-emptive importation program if the situation so warrants, provided that the Sugar Regulatory Administration will be on top of the situation and provided further that it will continue to exercise its mandate as provided for by law. However, and as stressed by Secretary Manny Piñol in his announcement, this measure will directly benefit only the consuming public,” Mr. Yulo said.

“Sugar milling season has already started and we are confident that we have enough sugar supply in the country, but we are agreeable to this measure in order to avoid a situation similar to what has happened to the rice industry recently,” Mr. Yulo added.

According to the latest data of the Philippine Statistics Authority, sugarcane production was reduced by 26.2% year-on-year to 6.44 million metric tons in the three months to June.

The decrease was due to reduced planting area due to low sugar prices in the Western Visayas; smaller cane due to reduced fertilizer application in Central Visayas; and a reduced harvest due to an early cut-off of milling operations in Northern Mindanao.

According to PSA data, 49.6% of sugarcane production came from the Western Visayas, followed by Mindanao at 15%. Central Visayas and Calabarzon accounted for 13.3% and 10.4%, respectively. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio

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