Farmers blame imported sugar for low prices

Farmers blame imported sugar for low prices
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Reports from the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) revealed that more imported sugar than local sugar are being withdrawn by traders, resulting in the prevailing low prices of P2,300 – P2,500 per 50-kilo bag.

This was revealed in SRA’s Sugar Supply and Demand Situation reports when they were reviewed by officers of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations, Inc., (Confed) during their recent meeting in Manila.

As of November 12, SRA’s report showed that, out of the total refined sugar withdrawal of 209,408 metric tons, only 32% (66,608mt) were locally refined sugar while the whooping 68% (142,800mt) comprised of imported refined sugar.

In an October 29 report, it disclosed that, out of 173,257mt of refined sugar withdrawn, only 31% (54,209mt) were locally refined while the huge majority of 69% (119,050mt) were imported refined sugar.

“Compared to locally refined sugar, imported refined sugar is cheaper, and so it will deliver more profits for importers and traders. But how about the sugar farmers? We’re the ones who give employment to millions of Filipinos. The Department of Agriculture can greatly help by switching priorities, giving more importance to locally refined sugar,” said Confed President Aurelio Valderrama, Jr.

Approximately 40 percent of raw sugar is withdrawn for refining, so if locally refined sugar is not given priority, the local sugar farmers who produce the raw sugar stand to suffer. As the supply of raw sugar piles up, prices will drop, as they did to P2,500 and then to P2,300 in the past few weeks.

Ironically, while millgate prices drop, local retail prices remain high. Clearly, neither sugar farmers nor consumers are benefitting from this situation, Confed said.

On September 26, 2023, the Sugar Board of the SRA passed Board Resolution 2023-159 “to lift the deadline set for importers under Sugar Order No.7, series of 2022-2023 to reclassify, distribute, and dispose of imported refined sugar until further notice.”

SO7 authorized the importation of 150,000mt of refined sugar to enter the Philippines by September 15. Importers were mandated to distribute their allocations by October 15. The intention of SO7 was to provide a buffer stock, but many feared the 30-day window between September 15 and October 15 was too late since milling was scheduled to begin on October 1.

The fact that Board Resolution 2023-159 was issued before the October 15 deadline for importers to distribute their imported sugar appears to confirm the farmers’ fear that over importation would cause the decline in sugar prices.

Sugar farmers want to know now, how much of the 150,000mt was actually distributed and how much was left undistributed as a result of the Board Resolution. Current situation suggests that the Board Resolution failed to fix the problem of declining sugar prices, Valderrama said.

“At this point all remedies are welcome. We have also written to President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., asking for fuel subsidy, because production inputs continue to rise even as sugar prices go down,” he added. (PR)

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