SRA urged to allocate sugar for local food exporters

Business sector representatives are again appealing to the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) to allocate a portion of the 150,000 metric tons (MT) of imported refined sugar solely for the use of local food exporters.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization Inc. (Philfoodex), and the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport) are also pushing for the inclusion of a business sector representative in the SRA Board.

“We again appeal to SRA for a [refined] sugar allocation which is only .3 percent of the 150,000 metric tons approved for importation this season,” Ruben See, Philfoodex President said, adding that requests have been sent to SRA and the Department of Agriculture (DA), but no action has yet been taken.

PCCI, Philfoodex and Philexport have been making the request for sugar allotment, which they said would make local food exporters competitive, over the last five years.

Over the past five years, the three business groups have been requesting for sugar allocation for local food exporters so they can compete in Asean.

Last week, the SRA board issued two Sugar Orders (SOs). Under SO 1, the SRA board allocated all raw sugar production for the current crop year for domestic use.

Under SO 2, the 150,000 MT of refined sugar imports would be equally divided between industrial users and consumers.

SO 2 defined industrial users as food, confectioneries, biscuits, bread, candies, milk, juice, and beverage manufacturers that use refined sugar in the production of their finished products for sales exclusively in the domestic market.

“The sugar importation should be done through the Philippine International Trading Corp. to ensure monitoring and accounting for the release of imported sugar,” PCCI said.

Meanwhile, consumers, based on SO 2, shall refer to wholesalers and traders engaged in selling sugar in bulk to retailers and retailers refer to individuals selling sugar in small quantities to the general public for consumption.

Apart from the sugar allocation request, PCCI has proposed to the SRA the designation of a representative from Philfoodex to participate in the SRA Board consultative meeting.

Paul Cuyegkeng, chairman of the PCCI Agriculture Committee, said that the proposal is “essential” to strike a balance between the needs of farmers, millers, and food manufacturers, which are mostly micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

“We believe that all sectors must be heard. Our local food processors and manufacturers, which are mostly MSMEs, have long been burdened with the high cost of refined sugar and sadly, they are not able to compete with our counterparts in Asean, whose sugary-made products are sold way cheaper than ours,” Cuyegkeng said.

The committee said the government should engage the private sector to determine the requirements of these small merchants and consider them in the import request in order to continue operations.

It also urged the government to look into modernizing the milling industry to increase production and provide incentives to attract investments in the agriculture-related manufacturing sector.

Image credits: Bloomberg