The Philippines has given the green light to import 18,294 metric tonnes (MT) of refined sugar from Thailand to boost domestic supply and temper rising sweetener prices which have continued to soar for reach unprecedented heights in recent weeks.
The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has authorized the import of 6,485 MT of bottler-grade refined sugar and 11,809 MT of premium-grade refined sugar, all from Thailand, the world’s second largest exporter of the sweetener.
The approved import covered the period from May 26 to June 13 and was part of the 200,000 metric ton import program of Sugar Ordinance (SO) No. 3, Series 2021-2022.
“Some shipments have started arriving at Philippine ports. These sugar shipments will be subject to reclassification, which will be approved by the Sugar Board, before they can be used by processors,” SRA Administrator Hermenegildo R. Serafica told BusinessMirror.
“The SRA will closely monitor these shipments of imported sugar,” Serafica added.
The SRA resumed implementation of OS 3 on May 2 after dealing with legal debacles that temporarily halted the import program. The current sugar import program only accepts applications from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, except in Region VI, where a writ of injunction has been issued by a regional trial court against SO 3.
The arrival of refined sugar imports comes at a time when local prices for the sweetener are rising unabated.
The average price of refined sugar hit a new high of 71.86 pesos per kilogram in supermarkets in Metro Manila and 70.50 pesos per kilogram in public wet markets.
The wholesale price of refined sugar registered a new record average of 3,295 pesos per 50-kilogram bag, while raw sugar peaked at 2,655 pesos per 50-kilogram bag.
The inflation rate for sugar, confectionery and desserts in May was 8.2%, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Currency Board member V. Bruce J. Tolentino said the sugar import program is “very important” to halt the rise in sweetener prices, which is now affecting both manufacturers and consumers .
“[The arrival of imports] is very important in the case of sugar, because it is also very important for all commodities where the internal price exceeds the border prices,” Tolentino told BusinessMirror.
“Sugar is an important input in manufacturing, and when its domestic price exceeds international trade prices, products that use sugar as an input will not be competitive and [such] also disadvantage domestic consumers,” Tolentino added.
Documents obtained by BusinessMirror showed that the SRA board, voting 2 to 1, approved the reclassification of 500 tonnes of bottler-grade refined sugar imported from “C” sugar or reserved for “B” sugar or domestic consumption.
Serafica and Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar, who chairs the SRA board, voted in the affirmative while SRA board member Roland B. Beltran did not. did not vote on the reclassification, citing the temporary restraining order issued by the relevant courts against OS 3.
Serafica earlier told BusinessMirror that the “sugar price boom” could have been avoided if the government’s import program had not been blocked by legal challenges.
“This would have been solved earlier by the stalled implementation of SO [sugar order 3]. Either way, it is hoped that this import will cushion the surge in sugar prices,” Serafica said last month.
The country’s refined sugar demand has exceeded local production in the current 2021-2022 crop year due to the easing of Covid-19 restrictions which has led to economic improvements, coupled with a drop in production of sugar cane.
SRA data showed that as of May 29, refined sugar production fell 2.11% yoy to 688,927.15 MT while demand increased 5.28% yoy to 785. 261.4 MT. Raw sugar production, meanwhile, fell 15.25% year-on-year to 1.772 MMT.