By Madelaine B. Miraflor
The government was urged to investigate the rising gap between retail and millsite prices of sugar, with Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) suspecting that “there are sectors profiting largely” at the expense of local sugar farmers, workers, and producers.
Following a consultation with sugar stakeholders, SRA officials now suspect that rising price of retail sugar are being manipulated by wholesalers and retailers.
Roland Beltran, who represents the millers in the SRA Board, said that millgate prices of sugar for the past months have been holding steady at P1,450 to P1,500 per 50-kilo bag.
He also said that sugar millers’ warehouses “are filled to the brim with sugar, thus any hike in sugar prices is artificial and being manipulated.”
“When retail prices of sugar goes beyond P60 per kilo, that should reflect double the existing mill gate price,” Beltran said.
Based on the price monitoring of SRA, the retail price of refined sugar went up to as high as P68.80 a kilo during the first week of this month. It now averages around P52 to P65 a kilo.
Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations, Inc. (CONFED) Board Member Salvador Escalante said earlier that a retail price of P60 a kilo for sugar means the millsite price has to be around P3,000 per 50-kilo bag.
“We have not been remiss in reminding the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to do their job and monitor retail prices of sugar because at the end of the day, it will be the producers who will be at the receiving end of this problem,” Emilio Yulo, who represents the sugar producers in the SRA Board, said.
“We have been directing our eyes on the traders but I think we should now set our eyes on the wholesalers and the retailers because if indeed there is a problem in the supply chain, it is definitely not coming from the producers and the millers,” Yulo said.
He also feats that this may be “another ploy in setting up a scenario to justify liberalization of sugar importation”.
Yulo particularly mentioned Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Chairman George Barcelon who has renewed his call for sugar import liberalization despite the latter’s admission that importation at this point may flood the market if there is abundant supply of domestic sugar.
Yulo said he is now having a hard time explaining, particularly to the small farmers, why there is a huge difference between mill gate price and retail price and what is the government doing about this.
“Unfortunately, the very agency who is tasked to monitor and ensure that this should not happen is not doing its job. At the end of the day, who is being screwed here – the producers and the consumers, and I hope DTI will not wait that the price breaches P70 per kilo. In fact, it should not have waited that prices breached the P60 per kilo,” Yulo said.