PHL keen on importing 450,000 MT of sugar

The Philippines is mulling over importing as much as 450,000 metric tons (MT) of raw and refined sugar to further beef up its supply and temper retail prices.

Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) board member Pablo Azcona, who represents the sugarcane planters, said Wednesday the Palace has recommended the importation of 400,000 MT to 450,000 MT of sugar to ensure that the country will have a two-month buffer stock.

Azcona said the proposed importation program is still being finalized and that the SRA board is drafting its guidelines, which will be subjected to a consultation with stakeholders.

No less than President Marcos Jr. revealed the national government’s plan to maintain a two-month sugar buffer stock to manage price fluctuations.

Part of the import guidelines is the schedule of arrival and the specific markets that will be allowed to use the imported stocks.

“The proposed import volume will not all arrive at the same time. We are at the peak of the milling season and part of the SRA’s job is to determine how much volume will be introduced to the local market and when,” Azcona told reporters in an interview.

Talks on a new sugar import program started in December as the SRA has been monitoring the country’s sugar supply and price situation.

“It was a joint recommendation [between the SRA and the Palace],” he said.

“The instruction of the [Department of Agriculture], maybe from Malacañang as well, is that they want the volume of sugar to arrive as soon as we can. Maybe in the first quarter or April, depending on shipping delays.”

Azcona said the bulk of the imported sugar would be refined while part of the volume would constitute raw sugar since some refiners have requested to be allowed to import raw stocks.

“There are recommendations to import from the refiners group. They are requesting to import but for arrival later this year. A little bit of raw sugar so that they can start their refineries early,” he said.

Despite the recommendation to import sugar, Azcona said he still does not believe that the country is suffering from a “physical shortage” of the sweetener.

“This importation program is normal. Every year, for the last 30 years, we usually import after our sugarcane harvest. There is always a shortfall that is needed to be filled until the next harvest, which is usually from June to October. That is the vacuum for our local production.”

Azcona noted that the proposed import program is intended for consumers and industrial users. He said the SRA is still awaiting instructions regarding the intended market of the imported sugar.

“So far, what we are hearing is that the importation will be open to everybody. The industrials will not have specific volumes. They can apply or course it through the traders,” he said.

Azcona said the estimated landed cost of imported sugar ranges from P70 to P80 per kilogram.

Despite the SRA’s previous import program, of which half of the 150,000 MT was allocated for the retail market, it failed to make a dent in the prevailing prices of refined sugar, which remained above P100 per kg.

Image credits: Bloomberg


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