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High sugar prices blamed on greedy traders

BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN

Greediness of some sugar traders triggered the high prices of sugar in the market, disclosed UNIFED president Manuel Lamata yesterday.

Lamata said that some traders are hoarding sugar to manipulate the market “as if there was a shortage.”

The solution to this, according to Lamata, is for the Departments of Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Bureau of Customs and the police, to open and conduct raids on sugar warehouses and file charges against traders.

“Hoarding is economic sabotage,” he said, adding the hoarded sugar should flood the market.

The Sugar Regulatory Administration had claimed that the sugar supply situation in the Philippines has taken a turn for the worse, as manufacturers are now forced to source the product locally, competing for already limited supplies in the market.

“Manufacturers who didn’t buy raw sugar historically are now buying even raw sugar to have the raw sugar processed as refined sugar for their consumption,” SRA administrator Hermenegildo Serafica said in a statement.

The SRA attributed the output decline to the “residual effects of Typhoon ‘Odette’, continuous rain and overcast skies dampening the growth and sugar content of sugarcane.”

This particular scenario, it said, could have been prevented if not for the legal impediments brought about by various sugar groups.

The SRA authorized the importation of 200,000 MT of standard refined sugar for industrial users, which was challenged by various sugar groups before the regional trial courts in Negros Occidental, stressing that it would severely the sugar industry.

Lamata said that import program of Serafica was meaningless, since the 200,000 MT of refined sugar was never intended for the local market to stabilize prices, because Sugar Order Number 3 specifically gave it all to the industrial users.

As to final crop production produced by the whole sugar industry, Lamata stressed the need to conduct an inventory in order to establish exactly how much sugar was produced, so that proper decisions can be made as to how much should be imported.*

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