‘Go after sugar hoarders, they’re driving prices up’

SRA says sugar shortage driving up prices.*Ronnie Baldonado photo

The high sugar prices in the market have been caused by the greediness of some sugar traders, Manuel Lamata,  United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines president, said Thursday, June  23.

“They are hoarding sugar to manipulate the market as if there was a shortage,” he said.

Lamata said the  Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Customs  and the police should  raid sugar warehouses and file cases against the traders.

Hoarding is  economic sabotage, he pointed out.

The planned import program of Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) administrator Hermenegildo Serafica  was  meaningless, Lamata said.

The  200,000 metric tons of refined sugar Serafica wanted to import was never intended to go to the local market and stabilize prices because Sugar Order No.3 specifically allotted all of it for  industrial users, he added.

As to final crop production, the whole sugar industry should be inventoried to know exactly how much sugar was produced, so that proper decisions can be made as to how much should be imported, Lamata said.

SRA has always been transparent with the figures on production demand, and as early as January already projected that the country would face a deficit in  sugar supply largely because of weather disturbances, Serafica said.

SRA issued SO 3 on February 4 after holding a briefing and consultation with all five sugarcane planters’ federations, the Philippine Sugar Millers Association and Philippine Sugar Refiners Association, and all realizing that there will be shortage in sugar supply, recommended for importation, Serafica said.

The federation of  Lamata also recommended importation with the condition that traders take part in the importation, he added.

SRA being the repository of all the Philippines’ sugar situation data, deemed at that time that since the shortage was in standard refined sugar and bottlers grade sugar, it was the manufacturers who were running out of sugar, hence the importation would be for the manufacturers, he said.

SRA made it such that manufacturers who were capable of importing on their own may be allowed to import while manufacturers who had no capacity to import on their own may appoint traders to import for them, Serafica said.

This was so they  could cut down on the extra cost on handling fees and other charges that would  be incurred from coursing the importation mainly through traders, thus ensuring a lower price, Serafica said.

But for some reason Lamata was not happy with the participation of the traders through assignment by manufacturers, he wanted the traders to import without the assignment of a manufacturer, Serafica said.

“Thus, his group filed a TRO on the implementation of SO 3 which caused delays in importation, exacerbating the pressure on the sugar supply-demand situation with all the manufacturers trying to secure all the sugar they can from the local market,” Serafica added.

If SO 3 had been implemented according to schedule, they would have been able to address the demand of the manufacturers early on, prices would not be this high and our raw sugar and refined sugar supply would not be at this critical volume, Serafica said.

“Majority of our local production is purchased by the manufacturers,” he pointed out.

By addressing the need of the manufacturers, we would have alleviated the demand and the retail market would have stable sugar supply and prices, Serafica said.

“The high demand, low supply situation is being felt now with the high prices of sugar,” Serafica said.*

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