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SRA gathers data for May sugar import requirement

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The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) is currently determining the actual volume of sugar that needs to be procured by the end of this month, an official said on Tuesday.

The directive from President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. was to ensure that the final import volume must be based on latest supply report with a provision that it should not be more than 150,000 metric tons (MT).

In a statement, Pablo Azcona, SRA Acting Administrator said that this would include already the additional buffer volume of 100,000 MT, especially if the delay in the opening of mills to September 2023 instead of August to increase productivity is factored in.

“We would like to assure our sugar stakeholders that we will carefully study supply condition before we peg the final figure,” he said.

“But I am sure that everyone is aware that among the causes of a big drop in refined sugar production for this crop year was partly because of shortened refining operations due to lack of bagasse that fuels the mills, caused by massive rains, particularly in Negros Island, which provides more than half of our country’s sugar produce,” Azcona added.

Moreover, the SRA chief said that as of May 7, only 11 of 24 sugar mills are still in operation and the SRA has been informed that many of these will close down by the end of this month already, because of the fact that they opened in August also.

“We must also be reminded that we had the sudden closure of the Central Azucarera de Don Pedro, which also affected local supply,” Azcona added.

He said, the actual production in the same period has been pegged at 1.7 MT, and SRA is looking at another 20,000 MT from remaining mills that are in operation, which is way below the forecasted demand of 2.2 million metric tons.

“Needless to say, we will soon be conducting consultations with various stakeholders on what we can do in preparation for the next milling season to improve productivity toward self-sufficiency,” Azcona said.

“We may strongly consider delaying the opening of the milling season as part of the solution,” he added.

On Monday, May 22, Negros Occidental 5th district Rep. Dino Yulo urged the SRA to take a second look at the overall quantity of sugar to be imported by the government.

“Personally, I would like SRA to revisit the proposal and take a look at the figures,” he said adding, “We already imported a total of 440,000 MT of sugar plus 150,000 MT.”

Yulo, a former SRA board member, said that what is important is that sugar producers have recovered in this particular crop year.

“We hope that trend continues. It is important for us to effectively manage the supply and demand,” he pointed out.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, for her part, said that the price of sugar in the market is unlikely to drop to its previous low level despite the order issued by President Marcos to import an additional 150,000 MT.

The senator has expressed her belief that sugar prices will remain high as long as the government restricts sugar imports to only three companies.              

She stated, “According to reports, the President instructed the SRA board members to import additional sugar. The President seems to be solving the wrong problem.”

Hontiveros said, “the problem is not a sugar shortage. The problem is that three traders have cornered the buying and selling of imported sugar. It would be helpful if, like before, the SRA allows more importers.”

She added that the existing set up prevents competition, triggers inflation, and limits the availability of affordable sugar for households and businesses.

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