By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said the prices of sugar fell immediately after the government announced its plan to liberalize sugar imports.
SRA Price Monitoring reports showed that domestic raw sugar has gone down from P1,693 per bag in September 2018 to P1,575 per bag as of January 6, 2019, reflecting a 6.96 percent drop in roughly 3 months.
The agency also denied being restrictive on imports, having to clear for entry “so much” imported sugar in the span of five months last year.
SRA Board Members Roland Beltran (Millers Representative) and Dino Yulo (Planters Representative) said this in a joint statement to “allay the concerns of our sugar farmers, millers, and workers” regarding the statement of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno on deregulating sugar importation.
Diokno said the price of sugar in the Philippines is very expensive compared to the global rate and maybe liberalized.
SRA, however, pointed out that while the farmgate or millsite prices of sugar have declined, retail prices remain high. This means the high retail prices of refined sugar cannot be blamed on sugar farmers and millers.
“The sugar industry – its farmers, mills and workers – are partners of government. They provide investment, employment and revenue in the countryside,” Beltran and Yulo said.
“It is unfair to subject them to this insecurity,” they added.
Both said that Diokno’s statement resulted in the further drop in millsite sugar prices at the time the local sugar industry is entering peak milling and heightened the restlessness of sugar producers over the future of their industry, livelihood for their families, and continued employment for sugar workers.
SRA said the government’s focus and investigation should be on retail outlets that have kept their prices high when farmgate and prices in other retail stores have gone down already.
On sugar imports, Beltran and Yulo said the reason SRA monitors importation of food exporters and processors is to prevent the leakage of the imported sugar into the domestic market, and defraud government of revenue.
The SRA is mandated by the law to regulate supply of sugar in the country.
Sugar imports of food exporters/processors are not subject to tariff and value-added tax provided these are strictly used in the manufacture of food products for export.
In 2018, a total of 62,520 metric tons (MT) of sugar were allocated to food exports/processors.
From June to October 2018, SRA has also allowed the entry on 486,000 MT of imported sugar for the domestic market, the highest volume since 2010.
At that time, SRA has also eased the process and requirements for registration as international sugar trader, a requirement for importation, in compliance with President Duterte’s Administrative Order No. 13.
“How can SRA be restrictive when it cleared for entry so much imported sugar in just five months?” the SRA Board Members said.