By Madelaine B. Miraflor
As part of the efforts to tame inflation, the country's economic managers suggested the importation of more sugar.The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) thought it would be premature to do so.
To recall, headline inflation rate accelerated to 6.4 percent year-on-year in August 2018, its highest level in nearly a decade.
The country's economic managers was quick to respond and proposed "immediate reforms" in reducing food prices such as pushing for more sugar importation.
"The Sugar Regulatory Administration will open importation of sugar to direct users to moderate cost to consumers," the economic development cluster said in a joint statement.
However, SRA Board Member Roland Beltran thought it would be "premature" to import more sugar now that the country just started the milling season.
"The issue is about the stability of the prices of sugar and we already addressed that by bringing in imported sugar. We have started milling for crop year 2018 to 2019, which means enough supply of sugar. We strive to strike the balance hopeful that market driven forces shall bring prices reasonably profitable to producers and fair to consumers," Beltran said in an interview.
Right now, he pointed out that prices of local sugar have started stabilized already.
As of September 4, the price of raw sugar per 50-kilo bag is averaging around P1,564.64 to P1,983.33, which is a slight improvement from August when the average price went up to as high as P2,076.
Refined sugar, on the other hand, cost around P2,016.67 to P2,633 per 50-kilo bag, which is also lower than August prices of P2,633 to P2,784.
Succumbing to pressures triggered by the rising cost of sugar, the Philippine government allowed in June the importation of as much as 200,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar despite relatively enough supply.
This was the first time in more than two years that traders and millers from the Philippines were allowed to import sugar from other countries.
"The program of sugar importation is a success. The sugar prices have stabilized and the market has calm down," Beltran said.
"We started the new agricultural crop season of 2018 to 2019. The results of the initial harvests are very encouraging, if it can be sustained throughout the milling season we can expect a good production year for the sugar industry," he further said.
As of now, Beltran said there there is still no discussion at Sugar Board level regarding new importation.
"I should hasten to add that we are closely monitoring the sugar production, sugar withdrawals, and the prices thereof," he said.
The next SRA Board meeting is on September 13.