DA exec explains hasty importation of sugar

DA Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban at a press conference Wednesday.*RTVM photo

The move to import around 450,000 metric tons of sugar by the Department of Agriculture (DA) is aimed at managing inflation and building a buffer stock that will adequately meet the country’s sugar requirements, a senior Agriculture official said on Wednesday, February 22.

In a press briefing in Malacañang Palace, DA Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban said they acted on the directive of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to immediately address inflation due to supply issues, a press release from the Presidential Communications Office said.

“In response to the directive of the President to address inflation and create a buffer stock and given that sugar as one of the components of most commodities that drives the consistently high inflation rate, I acted with haste and interpreted the memorandum issued by the Office of the Executive Secretary as an approval to proceed with the importation,” Panganiban told the members of the Malacanang Press Corps.

“With the urgency of the situation, I instructed three capable and accredited companies to proceed with the importation of sugar, provided that they agree to reduce the prices of sugar, sell the commodity in a price that is commercially acceptable in the market, and that they will shoulder the cost of warehousing,” Panganiban explained.

In a memorandum from the Office of the Executive Secretary dated January 13, the DA was ordered to implement its recommendations to President Marcos, who is also the Agriculture Secretary, on the 2nd Sugar Importation Program for the Crop Year 2022-2023.

The memorandum, signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, said that around 100,000 metric tons of sugar “shall be automatically classified as ‘B’ or Domestic Sugar” while a total of 350,000 metric tons “shall be made available to the domestic market or otherwise designated.”

“Relative thereto, the DA is hereby directed to implement the recommendations, to ensure adequate supply of sugar in domestic markets, reduce prices and manage inflation, subject to compliance with Republic Act No. 10659 or the ‘Sugarcane Industry Development Act of 2015’, its Implementing Rules and Regulations, and other relevant laws, rules and regulations,” the memorandum read.

Panganiban said he selected from the list given to him three sugar importers, whom he considers “the most capable importers that we have”.

The DA official noted that the president was aware and “was properly informed” when the imported sugar was shipped to the country on February 9.*PND

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