Regulator says sugar imports needed to address weak domestic production

 Regulator says sugar imports needed to address weak domestic production

THE Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said the draft order authorizing 350,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar is intended to backstop domestic supply following shortfalls in local production.

Administrator Hermenegildo R. Serafica said in a statement on Monday: “What the detractors of imports have failed to consider is the issue of food security, in particular, the availability of supply and the issue of affordability of sugar.”

“As such and coupled with the increase in demand for sugar due to the opening up of the economy, the SRA has determined that there won’t be enough local production of sugar to meet our domestic consumption in the coming months, particularly June to August,” he added.

The SRA recently put forward Sugar Order No. 4, which calls for the import of 250,000 MT of refined sugar, of which 150,000 MT is to be premium grade or bottlers’ grade refined sugar. The remaining 100,000 MT will consist of raw sugar.

Mr. Serafica said natural calamities and disrupted planting schedules were behind weak domestic production, pushing sugar prices higher.

Apart from Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai) in December, he said other weather disturbances affecting the sugar crop were excessive rain and reduced sunlight due to the La Niña weather phenomenon.

“Another effect of the rise in sugar prices is the rush of farmers to mill their cane while prices are up even though the cane is not yet fully mature; thus (yielding) less tonnage and sugar content. As a result, aside from lower sugar production when compared to last crop year, milling will also be ending earlier than expected,” he added.

Mr. Serafica said opposition to imports is being put forward by “self-interested” parties, adding: “The issue of sugar importation has become very political. There are no midnight or sweetheart deals. I will always do what I believe is right for the greater good. As the government agency regulating sugar supply, SRA has a mandate to ensure food security.”

The import program is being contested in the Regional Trial Courts of Negros Occidental by sugar planters, who obtained preliminary injunctions against earlier import orders. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson