2nd lowest output in 22 years: Sugar production hovers below 1.84 MMT in 2022 and 2023–SRA

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Despite higher output on an annual basis, the Philippines’s total sugar production in the current crop year would still be below 1.84 million metric tons (MMT), the second-lowest output in the past 22 years.

Latest production estimate by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) showed that total raw sugar output in crop year 2022-2023 is at 1.833 MMT, about 100,000 MT higher than previous crop year’s output of 1.82 MMT.

The SRA’s latest production forecast for the country is lower than the 1.876 MMT it projected before the start of the crop year in September.

Historical SRA data showed that the projected output in crop year 2022-2023 would be the second lowest volume in over two decades since crop year 2000 and 2001.

The lower raw sugar output is attributed to the decline in the volume of sugarcanes that will be milled this crop year. SRA’s latest forecast showed that total sugarcanes to be milled would be at 20.857 MMT, 1.77 percent lower than the 21.234 MMT recorded in the previous crop year.

SRA data showed that total sugarcane area in the current crop year would be below 400,000 hectares for the fifth consecutive year. Total sugarcane area in crop year 2022-2023 would be at 384,987 hectares, the smallest in at least five years.

The national government earlier revealed that it is planning to import as much as 450,000 MT of raw and refined sugar to further beef up its supply and temper retail prices.

SRA board member Pablo Azcona, who represents the sugarcane planters, said Wednesday the Palace has recommended the importation of 400,000 MT to 450,000 MT of sugar to ensure that the country will have a two-month buffer stock. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2023/01/19/phl-keen-on-importing-450000-mt-of-sugar/)

The country’s raw sugar output as of January 1 rose by 26.43 percent to 831,086 MT from the 657,352 MT recorded in the same period of last year, based on latest SRA data.

Planters weigh in

The United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) has thrown its support behind the plan of the national government to import as much as 450,000 MT of raw and refined sugar.

“We are fully supporting the decision of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to import refined sugar that will hopefully arrest runaway retail prices,” UNIFED President Manuel Lamata said in a statement on Thursday.

Lamata confirmed that the sugar industry stakeholders are being consulted about the proposed importation program.

He added that the 400,000 MT to 450,000 MT is an “acceptable” volume for UNIFED to ensure the country’s sugar buffer stock “amid speculation that there may be a shortage by the end of the milling season.”

“[We urge the SRA to] program well the releases of these imported sugar to ensure that millgate prices will not be drastically affected to the detriment of the sugar farmers,” he said.

Lamata said they leave the discretion on the formulation of the import guidelines and mechanisms to President Marcos and the SRA.

National Federation of Sugarcane Planters President Enrique Rojas said his group recognizes the need for importation and the necessity of a buffer stock of the commodity.

But Rojas pointed out that the planters are “groping in the dark” sans the actual and projected production and consumption estimates for this crop year.

“We are groping in the dark as to the actual volume of imported sugar which we need for domestic consumption,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

“The 450,000 metric tons importation might be enough, or it might not be enough. We do not know, unless SRA will provide us with the figures,” he added.

Rojas reiterated his group’s request for SRA to “enlighten sugar producers” by giving them the actual and projected production and consumption figures for the current crop year.

“Moreover, whatever importation should be calibrated in volume and should arrive only after the close of milling, so that it will not depress millgate prices of sugar to the disadvantage of sugarcane farmers,” Rojas said.