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Government urged anew to take action on elevated sugar retail price, meet with industry players

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Sugarcane planters are calling on the government anew to undertake measures that will bring down the retail prices of sugar, which have remained elevated despite the decline in mill-gate prices.

The Confederation of Sugar Producers Association Inc. (Confed), Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers Inc. (PANAYFED), and the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters Inc. (NFSP) also urged the government to engage the industry in an “earnest” dialogue. The three sugarcane producers’ federations represent 50 percent of domestic production.

“We share government’s concern over the current inflation rate hounding the Philippine economy. This inflation has hurt not only consumers, but also Filipino farmers who are reeling from escalating costs of production. We thus support any reasonable measures to curb inflation,” they said in a news statement.

“We are therefore concerned that the reportedly ‘very high inflation rate of sugar, confectioneries and desserts’ is seen as a major contributor to inflation, and that measures must be taken to stabilize not only supply but prices of sugar in the domestic market,” they added.

The producers’ groups, however, said that importing sugar via the minimum access volume (MAV) scheme to bring down the retail prices of sugar at this time is unwarranted.

For one, the groups noted that millgate prices have already dropped by as much as 26 percent over the last 11 weeks.

They also noted that the refined sugar inventory from September 1 to December 11, based on data from the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), is higher by 56.55 percent compared to the inventory last year due to higher refinery output and previous import balances.

“There is thus no urgent need for importation especially during peak milling season. There is also no reason why retail prices should remain disproportionately high when mill-gate prices have already dropped,” the groups said.

SRA data as of December 11 indicated that the average retail price of raw sugar in Metro Manila markets is at P86.32 per kilogram, while refined sugar averaged P100.10 per kg.

“Producers sadly get the blame but do not benefit from excessive retail prices, while consumers and end-users suffer when retail prices are unreasonably high,” the groups said.

Confed, PANAYFED and NFSP reiterated their call to concerned government agencies, including the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry, to “guard against excessive retail prices” that are not in sync with prevailing mill-gate prices.

The groups issued the statement after President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. ordered the DA to fast-track the importation of 64,050 metric tons (MT) of refined sugar through the MAV mechanism to further “stabilize” sugar prices.

In a memorandum order (MO) dated December 20, Senior Agriculture Undersecretary Domingo F. Panganiban said Marcos, who is concurrently the agriculture chief, is “concerned” about the “very high” inflation rate of sugar.

He noted that the annual inflation rate of sugars, confectionery and desserts in November reached 38 percent.

“Concerned about this very high inflation rate, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, has ordered the Department to take action to stabilize sugar prices,” Panganiban said in MO 77 addressed to Jocelyn A. Salvador, the OIC Executive Director of the MAV Secretariat.

Panganiban told Salvador to “immediately” convene the MAV Advisory Council (MAV-AC) and “expedite” the importation of the additional supply of refined sugar.

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