PHL clears sugar imports from Thailand as prices rise

THE Philippines greenlighted the importation of 18,294 metric tons (MT) of refined sugar from Thailand to boost domestic supply and temper rising prices of the sweetener that have continued to skyrocket to all-time highs in recent weeks.

The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has cleared the importation of 6,485 MT of bottler’s grade refined sugar and 11,809 MT of premium refined sugar, all coming from Thailand, the world’s second largest exporter of the sweetener.

The approved importation covered the period of May 26 to June 13 and is under the 200,000-MT import program of Sugar Order (SO) No. 3, series of 2021-2022.

“Some shipments have started to arrive in Philippine ports. These sugar shipments shall be subjected to reclassification to be approved by the Sugar Board, before these can be used by the industrials,” SRA Administrator Hermenegildo R. Serafica told the BusinessMirror.

“The SRA shall closely monitor these shipments of imported sugar,” Serafica added.

The SRA resumed the implementation of SO 3 last May 2 after facing legal debacles that temporarily halted the import program. The current sugar import program is only accepting applications from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao except in Region VI, where a writ of injunction was issued by a regional trial court against SO 3.

The arrival of refined sugar imports come at a time of unabated increases in the local prices of the sweetener.

The average price of refined sugar reached a fresh record high of P71.86 per kilogram in Metro Manila supermarkets and P70.50 per kilogram in public wet markets.

The wholesale price of refined sugar recorded a new all-time high average of P3,295 per 50-kilogram bag while raw sugar has peaked at P2,655 per 50-kilogram bag.

The inflation rate of sugar, confectionery and desserts in May was at 8.2 percent, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Monetary Board member V. Bruce J. Tolentino said the sugar import program is “very important” to arrest the rising prices of the sweetener, now affecting both manufacturers and consumers.

“[The arrival of imports] is very important in the case of sugar, as it is also very important across all commodities where the domestic price exceeds border prices,” Tolentino told the BusinessMirror.

“Sugar is an important input into manufacturing, and when its domestic price exceeds international trade prices, the products that use sugar as an input will be uncompetitive and [such] also disadvantage domestic consumers,” Tolentino added.

Documents obtained by BusinessMirror showed that the SRA Board, voting 2-1, approved the reclassification of 500 MT imported bottler’s grade refined sugar from “C” sugar or reserved to “B” sugar or for domestic consumption.

Serafica and Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar, who chairs the SRA board, voted in the affirmative while SRA board member Roland B. Beltran did not vote on the reclassification, citing the temporary restraining order issued by competent courts against SO 3.

Serafica earlier told the BusinessMirror that the “runaway sugar prices” could have been prevented if the government’s import program had not been stalled by legal challenges.

“This would have been addressed earlier by the stalled implementation of the SO [sugar order 3]. Be that as it may, it is hoped that this importation will cushion the skyrocketing prices of sugar,” Serafica said last month.

The country’s refined sugar demand outpaced local production in the current crop year 2021-2022 due to easing of Covid-19 restrictions that led to economic improvements, coupled with lower sugarcane output.

SRA data showed that as of May 29, sugar refined production fell 2.11 percent year-on-year to 688,927.15 MT while demand rose by 5.28 percent on an annual basis to 785,261.4 MT. Raw sugar output, meanwhile, declined 15.25 percent year-on-year to 1.772 MMT.


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