SUGAR Regulatory Administration (SRA) Board Members Roland Beltran, representing the millers, and Emilio Yulo III, representing the planters, allayed concerns of the industry stakeholders amid the plan of the government to liberalize sugar.
“We are making this joint statement to allay the concerns of our sugar farmers, millers, and workers regarding the news that appeared in various newspapers on January 17 that government plans to liberalize sugar because of high sugar prices and restrictive import policy of the SRA. The immediate effect of that news was a further drop in millsite sugar prices at the time we are entering peak milling, heightened the restlessness of sugar producers over the future of their industry, livelihood for their families, and continued employment for sugar workers,” the two officials said.
First, it is not farmgate or millsite prices of sugar that have remained high, but retail prices of sugar, the statement stressed.
According to SRA Price Monitoring reports, domestic raw sugar has gone down from P1,693 per bag in September 2018 to P1,575/bag as of January 6, 2019. “That’s a 6.96 percent drop in roughly three months. Therefore, the high retail prices of refined sugar are not attributable to sugar farmers and millers,” it said.
“Second, not all retail outlets are selling sugar at a high of P60 to P64 pesos per kilo. The prevailing price of refined sugar at the retail level is P50 per kilo. 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,” the statement said.
The statement also said that food exporters are allowed to import sugar subject to monitoring by SRA.
“In 2018, a total of 62,520 metric tons sugar were allocated to food exports/processors. The reason why SRA monitors importations of food exporters/processors is to prevent the leakage of the imported sugar into the domestic market and defraud the government of revenue. Sugar imports of food exporters/processors do not pay the tariff and value-added tax provided it is strictly used in the manufacture of food products for export,” the officials explained.
As for sugar policy, the SRA is mandated by the laws – Executive Order No. 18 and the Sugarcane Industry Development Act – to regulate the supply of sugar in the country, the statement said.
“The SRA, therefore, cannot and has not restricted, but merely regulates imported sugar. In fact, the current SRA has been regarded by producers to being more open to importation than previous administrations. From June to October 2018 – in just five months – SRA has allowed the entry on 486,000 metric tons imported sugar for the domestic market, the highest volume since 2010,” it said.
“And – perhaps to the chagrin of local producers – SRA has 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. Additionally, SRA has cleared the entry of more sugar than initially allowed. Under Sugar Order No. 2, Series of 2018-19, it was ordered that 150,000 metric tons should be brought in, but eventually, SRA permitted an additional 136,000 metric tons more – without penalty, for a total of 286,000 metric tons. How can SRA be restrictive when it cleared for entry so much imported sugar in just five months?” it added.
The sugar industry – its farmers, mills, and workers, are partners of government for the government. They provide investment, employment, and revenue in the countryside. It is unfair to subject them to this insecurity, the statement said.