Cartel behavior is to blame for the unabated high prices of sugar in the market, Senator Risa Hontiveros said.
The senator lamented that the price of sugar should have dropped in the market following Malacañang's directive to allow the importation of 440,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar but this has not been the case.
This is because only three companies were able to import sugar and this was done ahead of the release of Sugar Order No. 6 by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).
“This is cartel behavior. Common sense, if there is more than enough supply, the price of sugar should have dropped. But why has the prices of sugar still high?” Hontiveros asked in a recent radio interview.
The senator pointed out that in previous sugar orders released by the SRA at least 10 to 30 sugar importers are allowed to participate.
Hontiveros also said that during the Senate Committee on Agriculture’s hearing on agricultural smuggling held last Thursday, May 18, the Philippine Association of Supermarkets Inc. also noted that not only the price of sugar, but other basic agricultural commodities like onions, remain high.
This, despite their observation, that there is ample supply of these prime agricultural products in the country.
In order to rectify this problem, the senator said the government should allow industrial sugar users to directly import sugar to sustain their operations while there is a perceived supply shortage of the said commodity.
“For a short term, I think, while supplies are limited, the government should heed the call of those in the industrial sugar industry to be able to directly import sugar,” she said.
“But for the medium and longer term, the government should support the development of the local sugar industry and local sugar producers,” she reiterated.
Earlier, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. approved an additional importation of 150,000 MT of sugar as recommended by the Sugar Regulatory Administration’s (SRA) to stabilize prices and boost the country’s stock, a matter which Hontiveros, likewise, criticized.