P90/kilo SRP for sugar eyed
The Manila Times
THE government will set a benchmark price for sugar after refined sugar retailed at P100 per kilo. In an interview with The Manila Times, Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica said setting a Suggested Retail Price or SRP for sugar was the consensus reached when he met with Agriculture Undersecretary Kristine Evangelista on Thursday night. “We are sending out invitation for a stakeholders’ meeting on Wednesday because that is part of the process on the retail prices. We will get the comments from the stakeholders so that we can stop the unabated increase of sugar in the wet market,” Serafica said. Based on the monitoring of the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Friday, a kilo of refined sugar is still being sold for as high as P100 at the Malabon Central Market in Malabon City, the Mega Q Mart in Quezon City and the Pasay City Market in Pasay City. Serafica said Evangelista was looking at a P90 per kilo SRP for refined sugar. Serafica also reiterated his call for the public to cut down on sugar consumption and refrain from panic buying. He said the existing SRP for refined sugar of P50 per kilo and P45 for raw or brown sugar was set early this year, “before we started to experience tightness in the supply after Typhoon ‘Odette’.” Serafica said the government also needs to increase the supply of sugar in the market to bring down its price. “If we have high demand and yet we have no supply, the tendency is traders will jack up their prices. We need to intervene and the solution Undersecretary Evangelista is seeing is the imposition of SRP on sugar,” he said. Invited to the consultative assembly on Wednesday are groups representing farmers, millers, refiners and traders. “At least they can give us cost structure of sugar domestically produced,” Serafica said. He said one sugar mill “will start milling of raw sugar and in two weeks, we will be able to produce refined sugar. Hopefully, if there are no issues on the logistics, this will increase the supply here in the National Capital Region.” Another mill is scheduled to start milling on Monday. Serafica also advised the public to buy sugar in supermarkets instead of wet markets, because the supermarkets’ retail price is cheaper. In an interview with The Manila Times, Serafica said the SRA will recommend to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. the importation of at least 300,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar. Serafica said Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia could be possible sources of sugar imports. “It will depend on the importers where they can secure the needed volume of sugar as soon as possible,” he said. The importation could begin in three weeks, he said. “We want to implement this once the import plan is approved. We will execute all of these. There are challenges in the logistics and you cannot expect the entire 300,000 metric tons to arrive in bulk,” Serafica said. He has previously said that the country’s sugar supply is only good until Aug. 19, 2022. The country’s sugar production is estimated at 1.8 million MT, while demand for the past three crop years has been around 2.03 million MT. Evangelista said that aside from importation, the SRA was also developing a plan to increase the country’s sugar production. But Albay Rep. Joey Salceda warned that importing another 300,000 MT of sugar will kill the local sugar industry. “Sugar is a politically and socially charged issue in the Philippines because the domestic sector is highly labor intensive. The sector employs close to 700,000 workers directly, or around 1.6 workers per hectare cultivated. Compare that to 0.53 workers per hectare of rice land cultivated, or the 0.77 workers per hectare average for the entire agricultural sector. In other words, if we end up swamping the country with sugar imports, we will very likely kill a lot of jobs immediately,” Salceda said. The congressman said he is not convinced “that the solution is as simple as just freeing up the sugar imports sector. Indeed, our very segmented sugar sector — separating farming from milling from refining from trading — has led to massive costs of transport, logistics, and intermediation, with every stage having middlemen. This, of course, is on top of opportunity costs incurred from lack of economies of scope.” He accused the SRA of failing to address the concerns of the sugar industry. “Our SRA has also been ineffective, historically, at developing the sugar industry, with very low program administration rates. Low utilization was why they have been given low allocations from Train (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) tax revenues. … We have been focused on the harm reduction side of trade policy, without nurturing the domestic industries enough. I am hopeful that this will change under President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr.,” said Salceda, who is also the chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means. He said the committee will have briefings with the Bureau of Customs on import levels of sugar and other sweeteners, and with the SRA on mandatory programs under the Train law to boost domestic production.