Sugar import volume seen at 400,000 MT

By Madelaine B. Miraflor

The Philippines is seen to import as much as 400,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar during the current crop year as local production of the sweetener may fall to its lowest level in a decade, leaving a wide gap between the country's supply and demand.

In its latest Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report, US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) here in Manila fears that as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic push food and beverage manufacturers to expand production, producers may not be able to catch up amid a deficit in sugar output.

To be specific, FAS is expecting Philippines’ raw sugar production for the crop year 2020 to 2021 to fall to its lowest level in 10 years to 2.0 million metric tons (MT).

The cynical forecast was made on the weight of declining sugarcane areas due to land con¬version, particularly in Luzon, as well as the growing concerns among local producers about the Philippine government’s plan to liberalize the sugar industry.

In its own projection, the Philippines’ Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) was slightly more optimistic, setting its production target to 2.1 million MT, unchanged from the previous year and slightly higher than the 2.03 million MT of sugar produced during the previous crop year.

The Philippines’ sugar crop year starts in September and ends in August the following year.

As a result of the decline in production, FAS is seeing an increase in demand of the commodity, which now stood at 2.35 million MT. This, as it expects cane sugar consumption to rise with the global economic recovery from COVID-19 and with food and beverage manufacturers expected to expand production.

To meet this growing demand, FAS said the Philippines may likely import as much as 450,000 MT of sugar, which would be the highest amount of imported sugar to enter the Philippines in the span of a year.

During the sugar crop year two years ago, the Philippines only imported 350,000 MT of the commodity and then another 400,000 MT the following year.

In 2019, sugar, valued at P35.5 billion, was the nation’s fifth largest agricultural crop product by value after rice, bananas, corn, and coconuts.