DURING the Joint Board of Directors and General Assembly Meeting of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters last July 28, NFSP president Enrique D. Rojas invited heads of the SRA, Sugar Master Plan Foundation and Sugar Anti-Smuggling Office to update NFSP members on the latest developments in the industry.

 

SRA head Nene Trebol was unable to come because he had some pressing official matters to attend to but Sugar Board member Archie Amarra was there. So were Jack Alonso, officer-in-charge of the SMPF, and retired Gen. Joel Goltiao, head of SASO.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

 

Amarra, Gen. Goltiao and Alonso provided a clear picture of the production and supply scenario, preview of the coming crop year and accomplishments of the industry’s anti-smuggling operations. Let me share some of the info with you.

 

Raw sugar production as of July 11 is 1.97 million mt, lower by 5.7% from last crop year’s 2.09 million mt. Total ton canes milled is 19.23 million mt, lower by 10.5% than the 21.48 million mt last crop year. However, sugar recovery increased by 5.13%, from 1.95 50-kilo bag per ton cane last crop year to 2.05 LKg/TC as of July 11.

 

Raw sugar withdrawals increased by almost 2%, from 1.97 million mt last crop year to slightly over 2 million mt as of July 11. Raw sugar stock balance registered a drop of 51.83%, from 354,731 mt last crop year to only 170,872 mt as of July 11.

 

White or refined sugar production increased by almost 5%, from 933,933 mt last crop year to 979,528 mt as of July 11. Withdrawals registered a slight decrease, from 923,976 mt last crop year to 916,627 mt as of July 11. Refined sugar stock balance as of July 11 is only 242,098 mt or a drop of 20.75% compared to 305,497 mt last crop year.

 

Raw withdrawals have reached 2 million mt as of July 11 This averages to roughly 200,00 mt raw sugar consumption per month. With raw sugar stock balance of only 170,872 mt almost two months to go before the next crop year kicks in on September 1, raw sugar supply is indeed short of projected consumption by more than 300,000 mt.

 

According to Gen. Goltiao, this more than 300,000 mt is the volume which sugar smugglers have been supplying annually to the domestic market. At P1,500 per 50-kilo bag, smuggled sugar amounts to a loss of around P9 billion in potential revenue to the industry. This does not include yet the government’s revenue loss.

 

Worse, smuggled sugar depresses domestic sugar prices, thereby robbing the sugar producers of the rightful fruits of their efforts and investments.

 

To address this perennial problem, the industry formed and funded SASO, a small but rapid response intelligence unit to gather info on illegal sugar shipments and those involved in bring them in. SASO works under the Sugar Master Plan but it is also deputized by SRA in its anti-smuggling operations.

 

In just two months of operations under Gen. Goltiao and in cooperation with police and Bureau of Customs personnel, SASO has conducted several inspections and raids in warehouses and establishments in Pampanga and Cebu which led to the filing of administrative charges against those found with undocumented sugar.

 

SASO’s operations have eliminated the blatant display of smuggled sugar. SASO has forced Manila and Cebu smugglers to go underground, compelling them to repack the sugar into local sacks, thereby greatly hampering their delivery timetables and profitability of operations.

 

Local traders and retailers who used to source their sugar from the smugglers are now hesitant to do so because they fear administrative charges, penalties and seizure of their undocumented sugar.

 

Those who purchase their sugar from legitimate sources are now willing to cooperate with SASO in providing information against fellow traders and retailers who engage in unfair competition by buying sugar from cheaper smuggled sources.

 

Moreover, after the Cebu incident, even Customs personnel in other “hot points of entry” are now exhibiting a more cooperative attitude towards SASO, disclosed Jack Alonso.

 

Early last month, NFSP, thru a letter to then Customs OIC Arevalo, spilled the beans on sugar smuggling in Cebu. NFSP president Nene Rojas based his letter from the personal report of Cebu-based NFSP officer Jose Mari Miranda, from SASO and SRA reports on actual confiscation of the documented sugar, and from SRA price monitoring reports.  

 

The Cebu District Collector vehemently denied the reports, saying that his office has never issued a mission order for the confiscation of smuggled sugar. His line goes: “No mission order, therefore, no confiscation. No confiscation, therefore, no sugar smuggling.”

 

SASO and SRA reports show that Bureau of Customs personnel were present in some of the operations and that the confiscated undocumented sugar was turned over to the Customs personnel.

 

In line with the SRA report on these anti-smuggling operations, I just received a letter dated July 26 from Nene Trebol who disclosed, “This Office has already furnished the Secretaries of the Department of Agriculture and Finance as well as the Commissioner of Customs copies of the report for assistance, resolution and immediate action.”

 

The Cebu incident reached the national media. One of the stories about it was even posted in a leading online international sugar news source. Further and more important, Nene Trebol’s letter has ensured that reports of sugar smuggling in Cebu has reached the heads of the national agencies concerned.

 

Now, the sugar industry awaits the action of these national agencies. Hopefully, the heads of these agencies will follow through with their actions the directives of President Noynoy against corruption.

 

Kudos to NFSP under Nene Rojas for reporting the presence of sugar smuggling in Cebu! Cane Points also salutes SASO under Gen. Goltiao and SRA under Nene Trebol for their continuing vigilance and resolute action against sugar smuggling.

 

(For reactions and suggestions, email bbacaoco@yahoo.com.)