By Madelaine B. Miraflor
As part of anti-inflation measures, the Confederation of Sugar Producers (CONFED), the biggest group of sugar producers in the country, may sell directly to consumers at a much lower price.
This developed as the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) assured them that the entry of 150,000 metric tons (MT) of imported sugar will not affect local production and this new supply will be solely for industrial users and direct end-users only.
Sugar planters have started selling washed or premium raw sugar at P45 per kilo, much lower than the P48 to P56 per kilo of the same quality being retailed in the province.
Direct selling of sugar effectively reduces the price of the commodity since there are no middlemen and traders involved.
The initiative, implemented by members of CONFED Negros, was done after a dialogue with SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica. CONFED membership accounts for over 65 percent of sugar farmers in the Philippines. Serafica said he is “hoping that this gesture will be replicated by all sugar producers in the country.”
He added that SRA has been monitoring sugar prices and has started writing to retailers to revert to prevailing prices within five days if their prices have been found to be exorbitant.
For his part, CONFED Negros President Nicolas Ledesma said they will also propose to their national office to directly sell to consumers “as part of our share in helping this government that has also helped us in the past two years when the sugar industry was beset with problems, particularly on the entry of high fructose corn syrup”.
On Friday, the government announced that headline inflation in September surged to 6.7 percent, its highest level since March 2009.
Prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages, namely sugar-sweetened beverages, continue to be the main inflation drivers.
Ledesma, however, stressed that their sugar produce will only be retailed to local consumers who will “buy directly from our associations and cooperatives and in a per kilo basis” to avoid abuse by other retailers who may capitalize on lower sugar prices they will be selling.
Bernard Trebol, President of First Farmers Milling, also welcomed the assurance from Serafica that he will monitor sugar prices and will continue to exercise his regulatory powers to protect the industry, particularly the small farmers.
During the dialogue, Serafica explained the rationale behind the recent issuance of Sugar Order 2, which provides for the importation of 150,000 MT of sugar, will solely be made available to industrial users and direct end users.
He added that those who want to sign up for the importation program will be allowed to import a minimum of 2,500 MT to a maximum of 15,000 MT on a first come, first served basis which will be known by October 8.
Meanwhile, sugar leaders also asked the help of SRA to facilitate with various agencies and financial institutions for soft loans and mechanization, acknowledging that the industry’s survival will be dependent on their competitiveness against other sugar producing countries.
They explained to Serafica that while they commit to cooperate with the administration, government should also consider that they too are feeling the effects of rising cost of fuel, labor and farm inputs.