UNIFED okay with DA import plan; 200,000 MT of sugar not final: SRA

The United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines agrees with the plan of the Department of Agriculture to import 200,000 MT of refined sugar, UNIFED President Manuel Lamata said on Thursday, June 27.

“This will fill in the shortage before harvest season starts in September. Harvest this coming crop year will be delayed due to El Niño and when we were consulted about this matter, we approved the proposal,” Lamata said.

The DA is planning to import at least 200,000 MT of refined sugar in September to ensure a stable supply and prevent price hikes in the retail market.

 Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. was quoted by the Manila media as saying the target import intends to cover the gap before the milling season in October.

 Enrique D. Rojas, National Federation of Sugarcane Planters president, said on Thursday that the NFSP has always stood by its position that importation should only be the last resort.

“We should import sugar only when it is absolutely necessary. We need to verify the actual sugar stocks, including the remaining volume of the previous importations and the projected production at the start of the next milling season, before we finalize the actual volume and authorize any importation,” he said.

“We should also ensure that the trigger point on actual sugar stock levels will be reached before we import, and most importantly, the arrival of the imported sugar should be calibrated and properly scheduled so that it will not depress millgate prices at the start of the next milling season,” Rojas added.

 The NFSP is not against importation, he said, “but we should import only when it is absolutely necessary, and in such manner and schedule that the importation will not affect millgate prices”.

Administrator Pablo Azcona of the Sugar Regulatory Administration said the program that Secretary Laurel was referring to is Sugar Order No. 2, or the pre-qualification of possible importers by having them pre-qualify by buying local farmers’ sugar first.

SO2 increased the farmer price to a stable P2,700 to P2,800 per bag of raw sugar, which also stabilized retail refined prices at P73 to P100/kg, he said.

 This program pre-qualified an import volume of almost 200,000 tons of refined sugar and was planned in January and formally signed March 8, 2024, he said.

“We have pre-qualified and pre-allocated based on their actual support for the local farmers. As we said previously, we will activate an import plan should the trigger stock level be reached to ensure a stable supply and stable price for our retail and industrial consumers, as well as to ensure that our farmers will not be affected,” Azcona said.

“We also have to bear in mind that the 5 million farmers, farm workers, their families, and people dependent on the sugarcane industry are also 100 percent retail consumers,” he added.

Azcona said he will meet with Laurel first week of July “to discuss and update him on stock levels and determine when we need to activate this plan”.

Azcona said 200,000 MT is not a definite figure as importation  will based on the stock inventory in September when the milling season starts.*

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