Sugar imports should be based on science, not politics, says Rep. Recto

House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto asserted on Tuesday, Aug. 16, that the importation of the right volume of sugar must be “solely based on science and insulated from lobby and politics.”

Batangas 6th District Rep. Ralph Recto (Senate PRIB)

In doing so, Recto said in a statement, sugar demand and supply forecast should be subjected to outside review and “not by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) alone.”

He pushed for finding the “sweet spot” which will determine the right volume of sugar imports in a bid to protect producers and consumers.

“Multi-agency dapat. Is NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority), for example, on board in determining production and consumption outlook?,” the Batangas 6th district representative said.

According to Recto, the third party vetting on sugar data “will not only strengthen the integrity of projections made, but will hush down unfair claims of data manipulation.”

“A group of experts, from the academe perhaps, should take a second look at our food import projections, not just on sugar, but on all commodities, so that we will not be importing more than what is needed,” he suggested.

The lawmaker made the proposal after SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica resigned from his post following the controversy surrounding the reportedly unauthorized importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar.

Before his resignation, SRA board member Roland Beltran, who was also among those who signed the “illegal” resolution authorizing the importation, stepped down from his post.

READ: Palace confirms 2 SRA execs’ resignation amid sugar importation mess

This came after Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian’s resignation was also made public following the discovery of the unauthorized resolution.

Recto said “one foundation of any commodity outlook is the projected demand” as this is used as basis for import plans.

He recalled “instances in the past when the computation of the annual per capita consumption of rice was allegedly inflated to justify jacking up import volume.”

“Sa bigas, itaas mo lang ang (In rice, just increase the) per capita consumption ng isang kilo, tataas ang demand (by one kilo, the demand will rise by by 2.2 million sacks kada taon (every year),” he said.

His office cited Section 9 of Republic Act 10659, or the Sugarcane Industry Development Act of 2015, that mandates the SRA to establish a “supply chain monitoring system” that will track volume of “sugarcane at farms to refined sugar at stores.“

SRA’s monitoring covers registered firms from distilleries that use sugarcane to warehouses of sugar importers to sugar stockpiles of food processors in a bid to ensure supply efficiency.