The arrival of imported sugar by mid-November, when most mills are already operating and sugar supply would have substantially stabilized, might dampen millgate sugar prices , Enrique Rojas, National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP) president, said.* Ronnie Baldonado photo
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has signed Sugar Order No. 2, Series of 2022-2023, allowing the importation of 150,000 metric tons of refined sugar to ensure adequate domestic supply and to stabilize prices.
The order released Wednesday, September 14, said that 75,000 metric tons will be allocated to industrial users and 75,000 metric tons for consumers.
The sugar must arrive in the country not later than November 15, it said.
Sugar Order No. 2 was signed by Marcos as chairman of the Sugar Regulatory Administration Board, Agriculture Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban, Acting SRA administrator David Alba and acting board members Mitzi Mangwag for the millers and Pablo Luis Azcona for the planters.
Alba said Sugar Order No. 2 is one of the Sugar Board’s actions to address the tightness of sugar supply in the country.
The 150,000 MT import program is just a stop gap measure because the refineries will go in full operations by October and at the latest November, Alba said.
United Sugar Producers Federation president Manuel Lamata thanked the president for slashing the 300,000 MT intended for importation under Sugar Order No. 4 to 150,000 MT.
“It’s a win-win formula because 75,000MT is for consumers and 75,000 MT is for industrials. The timing is okay because we are already harvesting in Negros,” he said.
Lamata also said Sugar Order No. 1 allocating all of the country’s sugar production for domestic use is good because “we need all what we can produce for our country. Philippines first.”
‘TOO EARLY TO KNOW’
Enrique Rojas, National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP) president, said it is too early to know if the 150,000 MT will be enough because the SRA has yet to explain and reveal the production and projection figures that it used.
“What’s clear is that its arrival on or before November 15 is quite late”, Rojas said.
The shortage has already forced several sugar-using companies to stop their operations, displacing hundreds of workers, while retail refined sugar prices are still at P95-P100 per kilo, despite the much-sensationalized raids on warehouses of alleged hoarders and smugglers, he added.
The arrival of imported sugar by mid-November, when most mills are already operating and sugar supply would have substantially stabilized, might dampen millgate sugar prices but might not substantially lower retail sugar prices, because the lingering shortage has conditioned the public’s mind to accept such high levels of retail prices, Rojas said.
Several mills have started early milling this crop year. Taking advantage of the more than P3,000 millgate price per 50-kilo bag of sugar, some planters have rushed their cane harvest, including not too mature canes, to avail of the unprecedented millgate prices, he added.
Thus, the milling season might end much earlier than usual, and the sugar shortage, as evident in the production estimates, might be felt also much earlier than usual, Rojas said.
The producers were consulted as early as the last week of August on the importation of 150,000 MT under the proposed Sugar Order No. 2. The NFSP, together with the Confederation of Sugarcane Producers Associations and Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers, submitted joint comments to Alba, Rojas said.
“It has already been two weeks since we sent our joint comments, and SRA has already released Sugar Order No. 2, but we have not yet received an explanation on SRA’s basis for arriving at the 150,000 MT importation and on what selling price level SRA aims to achieve with such volume of importation,” Rojas said.
Meanwhile, NFSP welcomes Sugar Order No. 1, which allocates 100 percent of the estimated 1.87 million metric tons sugar production in the country as “B” sugar for domestic consumption, he added.
“Considering the sugar shortage during the previous crop year and the modest production estimate this new crop year, the 100 percent ‘B’ sugar allocation came as no surprise. What came as a surprise was the delay in the release of the sugar order, which traditionally is issued several days before the new milling season starts on September 1”, Rojas said.*