SRA: Sugar situation returning to normal

The Sugar Regulatory Administration expects the sugar availability situation to return to near normal as it had identified more than 200,000 metric tons of sugar that would be available in time for the Holiday season.

The Philippines has among the world’s longest celebrations of the Christmas season where family gatherings become frequent starting in September, putting more pressure on food producers during the season.

An SRA source said 185,000 MT will be sourced from Sugar Order 3 and 25,000 from sugar that will be converted for the domestic market.

The SRA schedule, thus, disputed the claim of resigned SRA chief Hermenegildo Serafica of a looming shortage of the commodity amid the rising prices in the market which was used to justify the signing of SO 4 that provided for a massive 300,000 MT of raw and refined sugar.

Sugar producers opposed SO 4 saying that the importations will overlap with the harvest and milling season, thus hurting the viability of the local industry.

The SRA source said that all sugar production has been devoted to local use since April last year despite the commitments to the US tariff rate quota scheme.

“We have had 100 percent ‘B’ or domestic sugar from April 2021 up to August 2022. As of the moment, we will maintain 100 percent ‘B’ or Domestic,” the SRA source added.

Sugar earmarked for the quota scheme and those allocated for other export markets will also be reclassified for domestic use, the source said.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos has appointed industry leader David Alba as head of the SRC in place of Serafica in the wake of the importation scandal.

“As for the expired A (quota sugar) and D (export sugar) held by millers, we have already discussed it with the (SRA) Legal and Regulation (department). Personally, I feel we could use it to help the current stock situation, but we have to get the okay of Legal and Regulation as A and D should have been shipped out long ago” the source added.

The bigger inflow to the market will come from the delayed entry of 185,000 MT of sugar from SO 3 signed during the term of former President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We have worked on delayed reclassification of SO3 sugar as well, so more if not all of the remaining SO3 sugar will be released to its allocated owners,” the SRA executive explained.

SRA said the added supply will address the huge requirements of bottlers such as Coca-Cola which claimed that the market has a 450,000 MT shortfall.

Another source indicated that the soft drinks firm had plans to move to another country because of their claimed shortages but it reportedly decided to stay anyway amid the assurance from the government that their requirements will be filled up.

The volume of smuggled and hoarded sugar was not known until the government discovered these through raids.

Massive importation, aside from encouraging more smuggling, lowers prices dramatically, to the short-term benefit of consumers but to the long-term disadvantage of producers and the sugar industry itself. Smuggling can kill the planters and millers eventually, according to industry sources.

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