The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), under the Department of Agriculture (DA), slammed yesterday those opposing a proposal for the government to import 350,000 metric tons of sugar, saying the issue is now being politicized.
In a statement, SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica stressed that detractors have not put into careful consideration two relevant matters on the issue: the availability and affordability of sugar.
“Due to (the) stoking of those who consider only their self-interests, the issue on sugar importation has become very political. What the detractors of importation have failed to consider is the issue on food security, in particular, the availability of supply and the issue on the affordability of sugar,” he said.
According to the SRA, the estimated raw sugar production for the crop year 2021-2022 is around 1,982,721.97 metric tons, which is 160,000 metric tons lower than the actual raw sugar production of 2,143,018 metric tons for 2020-2021.
“The carryover domestic raw sugar stock from last crop year is 228,690-metric tons which gives us a total raw sugar supply of 2,211,411-metric tons while (the) projected raw sugar demand is 2,200,379-metric tons,” Serafica said.
With the alert levels from the pandemic now being eased, Serafica warned of limited supply, alongside record-high sugar price hikes.
“As such and coupled with the increase in demand for sugar due to the opening up of the economy, SRA has determined that there won’t be enough local production of sugar to meet our domestic consumption in the coming months, particularly from June to August,” he said.
He then attributed the production decline to the effects of Typhoon Odette and La Niña, saying another lull production period looms.
“Currently, out of the 12 sugar refineries, five refineries have already stopped refining while the rest are scheduled to stop in the coming weeks until the 2nd week of June,” he said.
The SRA posed a challenge to detractors in case the country runs out of supply.
“Can you imagine what will happen if there is no sugar available in the local market for households, for food retailers, and manufacturers? I would like to ask the detractors of importation, will they be accountable when we run out of sugar?” Serafica said.
Several lawmakers, particularly Senator Imee Marcos, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, have urged the DA to block the SRA’s proposal, insisting that the executive needs to balance and prioritize the needs of small farmers.
On April 8, the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) earlier accused the DA-SRA of “planning” the destruction of the sugar industry, particularly its small shareholders.
NFSW Secretary-General John Milton “Ka Butch” Lozande said the department was just making excuses without hearing the sentiments of sugar planters also suffering from the increased fertilizer prices.*PNA