AGRICULTURE Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol on Monday said there will be no additional sugar importations, as the current supply situation does not warrant it.
Piñol clarified that the country will not import additional volume given the recent pronouncement of the Economic Development Cluster (EDC) that opening importation of sugar to direct users is being considered as a measure to immediately address the runaway inflation.
Piñol explained what the EDC’s proposal meant: the government would only review how the importation of sugar is conducted.
“We are not importing. There are no additional imports. We will only allow importation if there is a perceived shortage, but this time around, we would change the system of importation,” he told reporters in an interview at the Senate on September 10.
“There will be no additional importation as of the moment,” he added.
The agriculture chief said they will review the current sugar importation system wherein volume allocations are given to farmers through certificate of reclassification rights (CORR).
The current importation system, according to Piñol, does not “contribute in bringing the prices down.” Piñol said they are tinkering with the possibility of having the sugar users directly importing the sugar, without having to purchase rights from local producers.
The DA will hold a dialogue with the sugar industry stakeholders to discuss the proposed revision, according to him.
“[The current system where] the SRA [Sugar Regulatory Administration] gives import certificates to farmer groups which they will sell afterward to traders, and then to [sugar] users, does not contribute in bringing the prices down,” he said.
“The option is just to deal directly with end-users,” he added.
Nonetheless, the government is not abandoning the sugar farmers as the tariffs collected from future sugar imports will be pooled and will be earmarked to the industry, according to Piñol.
“We will come up with a fund like the RCEF [Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund] which would go directly to the sugar farmers,” he said.
Earlier, stakeholders from the sugar industry and a member of the SRA board said the government must conduct proper consultations with those in the sector prior to allowing more sugar imports.
“The stakeholders will have to be consulted on sensitive issues such as the one at bar,” SRA Board Member Roland Beltran told the BusinessMirror.
“We need to strike a balance and ensure that prices of sugar will remain reasonably profitable to producers and fair to consumers. We cannot just turn our backs on the 61,761 small sugarcane farmers who are cultivating farms of 5 hectares or less,” Beltran added.
In June the SRA allowed the importation of 200,000 MT of sugar this year to arrest the high retail prices of the sweetener in the market.