THE government “will try” to liberalize more commodities, including sugar, within the term of the current administration, with the goal of converting its trade rules into something akin to the present rice trade regime, Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said.
“We will try,” Diokno responded when asked if it is possible that commodities like sugar would be liberalized under the Marcos Jr. administration in a recent press briefing.
Diokno emphasized that the goal is to have commodities governed by the system put in place under the rice trade liberalization (RTL) law, which allows freer entry of rice imports through streamlined import documents with little to no intervention from the state.
“Actually, we will lower the [tariff] rates of some commodities but our model really is to have the commodities to be governed by the RTL [law] model,” he said, describing the present rice trade regime as a “successful” model in combating inflation.
“That should be the model for all crops if possible,” he added.
In March, Diokno resurrected the idea of relaxing the import rules on sugar as a measure to pull down the elevated price level of the commodity by allowing easier entry of foreign stocks. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/03/07/easing-of-sugar-import-rulesto-bring-down-inflation-sought/)
Back then, Diokno noted that removing the quantitative restriction (QR) on sugar could be done through an executive order (EO). A QR is a non-tariff measure (NTM) that limits or restricts the volume of a given commodity or goods that can enter the country.
The DOF also reiterated its tack of reducing non-tariff measures through simplification of issuances of certain import documents like sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances, and certificate of necessity to import, in order to allow freer entry of imported commodities. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/03/08/ntm-easing-part-of-dof-tool-kit-for-anti-inflation/)
The BusinessMirror earlier reported that the spike in the retail prices of refined sugar last year revived talks among pundits and industry stakeholders about finally opening up the domestic sugar market to foreign competition. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2022/08/04/skyrocketing-sugar-prices-stoke-industry-liberalization-stakes/)
In 2019, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) commissioned Brain Trust Inc. to conduct an assessment on the country’s sugar industry. The study showed that SRA’s “tight control” over the sugar industry impeded its growth.