THE Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said on Tuesday that it is waiting a “go signal” from President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to formally release a sugar order authorizing the imports of 440,000 metric tons (MT) of refined sugar.
“In all the SRA Sugar Board meetings, the President, if he is not available, is represented by (Senior Undersecretary Domingo F.) Panganiban. In yesterday’s meeting, we all signed the Sugar Order (which was) sent to Malacañang for the go-signal from the President, in his capacity as Secretary of Agriculture,” SRA Board Member and Planter’s Representative Pablo Luis S. Azcona told reporters in a virtual briefing.
According to Mr. Azcona, the sugar imports will come in three tranches — 100,000 MT and 100,000 MT, with the remaining 240,000 MT to be held back as buffer stock.
The first tranche is cleared for arrival “as soon as possible” while the second shipment will be admitted into the country starting April 1.
The remaining 240,000 MT, per order of Mr. Marcos, will be classified as “reserve” sugar. The SRA will re-classify the reserve for release to the domestic market as needed.
According to Mr. Azcona, the imports will address strong demand and contain prices.
He projected domestic sugar production at around 1.83 million MT. He noted that demand “is a lot more” and called the imports a mechanism for ensuring that “consumers get a good retail price.”
“We have more Filipinos every year so the demand should be going up,” he said.
“However, the data for actual consumption of big sugar users is not very accurate because they don’t really share with us their actual usage. We can monitor this through their taxes… so I think the import volume of 200,000 plus 240,000 buffer is very safe,” he added.
Mr. Azcona said that the import volume was arrived at after “careful calibration,” to ensure farmers can obtain reasonable prices even in the presence of imports.
He said the buffer stock is a mechanism to keep some control over supply with the SRA.
“We cannot 100% control the traders; however, the SRA Board controls when the (reserve) sugar will be made available to the market,” he said.
Separately, the MAV Management Council has approved the entry of 64,050 MT of sugar through the minimum access volume (MAV) mechanism.
The MAV allows trading partners guaranteed access to the Philippine market, up to a certain volume, as part of the Philippines’ World Trade Organization commitments.
According to Mr. Azcona, the details of the MAV shipments are still being studied, with the SRA having little involvement in the process.
The arrival of MAV sugar is between mid-April and the end of August, for consumption before the start of the next crop year. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera