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Bacolod City, Philippines Saturday, January 19, 2019
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Proposal to liberalize sugar
drives down millgate prices
BY MARK L. GARCIA

 

Two officials from the Sugar Regulatory Administration lamented over the plan of the government to deregulate sugar imports, saying that the move will heighten the restlessness of producers over the future of the industry.

SRA Board Members Roland Beltran and Dino Yulo, in a joint statement yesterday said, that this announcement has resulted in the further drop in millsite sugar prices at the time it are entering peak milling, and heightened the restlessness of sugar producers not only over the future of the industry, but also the livelihood for their families, and continued employment for sugar workers.

On Thursday, Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno said that the government is seeking to liberalize importation of sugar to pull down its price and increase the competitiveness of the Philippine food export industry.

The reports added that, Diokno said this proposal follows the approval of the House of Representatives of the Rice Tariffication Bill, as it will benefit the export sector of the country.

Next is sugar. You know why? Because it’s one of the inputs to our potential exports,” he said, adding “Sugar in the Philippines is very expensive compared to the global rate, so we plan to deregulate or relax.”

Board members Yulo and Beltran immediately expressed their opposition, saying that it is not farmgate or millsite prices of sugar that have remained high, but its retail prices, as SRA observed there was 6.96 percent decline in the prices of domestic raw sugar, from September 2018 to this month.

“According to SRA Price Monitoring reports, domestic raw sugar has gone down from P1,693/bag in September 2018 to P1,575/bag as of January 6. Therefore, the high retail prices of refined sugar is not attributable to sugar farmers and millers,” the statement said.

Prevailing sugar prices in retail level is at P50/kilo, not P60 to P64/kilo, the statement said, as both board members suggested that the government should focus and investigate retail outlets that have kept their prices high when farmgate and prices in other retailers were down.

The statement also said that food exporters are allowed to import sugar subject to monitoring by SRA to prevent the leakage of the imported sugar into the domestic market and defraud the government of revenue.

It also mentioned that in 2018, a total of 62,520 metric tons sugar were allocated to food exports/processors and they do not pay the tariff and value-added tax provided it is strictly used in the manufacture of food products for export.

“SRA has eased the process and requirements for registration as international sugar trader, a requirement for importation, in compliance with President Duterte’s Administrative Order No. 13 and has cleared the entry of more sugar than initially allowed,” the statement said.

“How can SRA be restrictive when it cleared for entry so much imported sugar in just five months?,” Beltran and Yulo asked in the statement.

In a separate statement, SRA Board Member Dino Yulo also urged the sugar leaders, particularly the small farmers and agrarian beneficiaries, and sugar workers, not to be complacent and the government to listen to those who will be affected by this move.

“We are a much bigger industry that has more to lose if our country will open its doors to open and direct importation, than those in the food processing business who have been clamoring for the entry of imported sugar,” Yulo said.

Instead of opting to open direct importation of sugar, Yulo suggested that government and the sugar industry stakeholders go after the greedy traders and retailers who are capitalizing on the situation.*

 

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