SRA order: Quota not mandatory

Export commitments to the United States under the Tariff Rate Quota system will not be given priority over domestic requirements under Sugar Order 1 that the new Sugar Regulatory Administration leadership has drafted.

Foregoing the US quota scheme gives the domestic market access to 147,000 metric tons of raw sugar, thereby helping relieve a supply shortage, according to United Sugar Producers Federation president Manuel Lamata.

Another sugar industry leader said that SO 1 on its own “won’t free up anything. It just means that new production will all be consumed domestically.”

He, however, said nearly 10,000 metric tons of sugar quota have been on hold since they are asking for its conversion for domestic use.

SRA had drafted SO 2 which SRA administrator Dave Alba said will allow, upon the recommendation of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, the importation order of 150,000 metric tons of purely refined sugar.

The imports, however, will only serve as “a balancing act to stabilize market prices.”

“We will likely still have to import since we consume far more than we produce domestically but hopefully the imports will come in tranches during the off-season,” according to a sugar planter.

Alba said the SRA orders will still go through further deliberation with stakeholders to come up with mechanics equitable to all players.

The SRA proposals will be submitted to Malacañang for President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos’ approval.

Last 23 August, President Marcos Jr. inducted Alba as acting administrator of the Sugar Regulatory Administration while Pablo Luis Azcona and Ma. Mitzi Mangwag were named SRA board members.

They replaced former SRA administrator HermenegildoSerafica, DA Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian, and SRA board member Roland Beltran who all resigned due to the sugar importation mess brought about by Sugar Order 4.

SO 4 provided for the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar which was a plan that did not pass through the President.

SRA officials used the excuse that retail prices of sugar had shot up to more than P100 per kilo to justify the signing of SO 4 which later on the Palace said was illegal.

Swift BBM action

“When we took our oath of office last Monday, President Marcos convened the new SRA board in Malacañang and we formulated the first two Sugar Orders,” Alba said.

SO1 recommended “an all B sugar allocation” for this crop year. He added the commitment “to enforce the US quota will be met again as soon as we have stabilized our nation’s needs.”

“For now, tayo muna, bayan muna!” he indicated

The country will still need to import “as the industry cannot meet the market demand, as yet.”

Yet, President Marcos emphasized that importation should be the last priority. “As much as possible, ayaw niya mag-import. And we can address this if we ingrain in our minds productivity and efficiency,” Alba told industry stakeholders.

Alba said the target is to release SO2 by mid-September “so the arrival of imports will not interfere with the resumption of operations by sugar refineries that normally starts mid-November.”

The US tariff-rate quota scheme for raw sugar allows countries to export specified quantities of sugar to the US at a reduced tariff.

Based on United States Trade Representative data, the Philippines obtained an additional sugar allocation of 3,075 metric tons for the next crop year.

Figures from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture showed the Philippines has an allocation of 145,235 metric tons of raw value sugar for crop year 2023, which falls from 1 October 2022 to 30 September 2023.

This is higher than the 142,160 MT allocation in the previous fiscal year.

The allocation for the Philippines was the third largest next to Dominican Republic’s 189,343 MT and Brazil’s 155,993 MT.

SRA data also indicated the country exported 116,212 metric tons in crop year 2017 to 2018; 103,685 MT in 2018 to 2019; 109,408 MT in 2019 to 2020; and 112,008 MT in 2020 to 2021.

Alba said suspending the export of quota sugar is not new as the country also missed its commitments last year.

Appearing before stakeholders before a convention in Negros Occidental, Alba said lobby groups are active in Congress while he mentioned that the chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture and Food in the House of Representatives was reported in the media saying that the beverage industry should have its separate sugar importation orders “so as not to affect the price in the local market.”

Alba also cited efforts in Congress to resurrect “the issue of liberalization and that is something we have to prepare against.”

Annual sugar demand is pegged at 2.5 million metric tons which local producers were able to supply in the crop year 2016 to 2017 “when we actually overshoot that target.”

“We have been falling short in the past few years because of various factors, some of which are beyond our control such as climate change, high inputs prices, and of course the pandemic that drove up our production costs,” Alba explained.

Protect sugar growers, SRA told

A House leader on Monday stressed the importance of returning the Sugar Regulatory Administration to its primary goal of protecting sugar growers and broadening its function by focusing on modernizing the industry.

San Jose del Monte Rep. Florida Robes, chairperson of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, said several panel members noticed that the SRA over the years veered towards sugar importation as the only measure to address the so-called supply glut, which was not on its original mandate.

“What we have learned in so far as the recent sugar importations were the lack of consultation with sugar farmers and other stakeholders as well as the lack of transparency in dealing with the sugar importation…Parang sila-sila lang ang nag-uusap,” Robes said.

He cited what resigned Agriculture Senior Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian did when he misread President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos’ and jumped the gun on the importation by circulating Sugar Order 4 and signed it on behalf of the Agri secretary.

Similarly, the House leader noted that resigned SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica did not consult the board on SO 4 and instead disseminated a board resolution without consulting his technical team.


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