By Madelaine B. Miraflor
If the importation of sugar into the country will do little to bring down local prices, the government will be forced to put a price cap on the commodity to arrest its rising cost.
This was first brought up by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol and then was backed by Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) chief Hermenegildo Serafica — who, for the nth time, assured that there is no shortage in the supply of sugar.
“If prices will not stabilize after the entry of imported sugar, we will study the move [to put a Suggested Retail Price on sugar],” Piñol said.
Serafica then issued a statement over the weekend, saying that “SRA is one with DA [Department of Agriculture] in implementing a suggested retail price for sugar to ensure that the consumers are protected and not taken advantage of”.
As of July 10, prevailing price of raw is P50 per kilogram in the wet market and P55 in supermarkets, which are both higher compared to September’s average price — or just when the current crop year was about to start — of P47.56 per kilo.
Prevailing price of refined sugar, on the other hand is P65 in wet markets and P64 in supermarkets. Both are also higher than the average price of P54.92 per kilo back in September.
Prices in wet markets are monitored by the Philippines Statistics Authority three times a week while prices in supermarkets are monitored by SRA three times a week.
Serafica reiterated that there is no shortage of sugar for retail consumers, saying that SRA figures on sugar stock shows there is enough raw sugar and standard refined sugar as we speak.
He, however, admitted that there is indeed shortage in the bottlers’ grade or premium refined sugar, which are normally required by beverage companies such as Coke.
This type of sugar has very specific quality requirements and standards that can be met by only a handful of sugar refiners in the Philippines.
Since it is the end of the milling season, the country’s refiners are constrained by the availability of bagasse to fuel their boilers for refining.
Bagasse for refining is sourced from the sugarcane fibers left after extraction of cane juice in the production of raw sugar by the sugar mills.
“The high prices of sugar is brought about by the erroneous perception being circulated by enterprising individuals that there is a shortage in sugar,” Serafica said.
“Some are taking advantage of the issue of the lack of sugar for bottlers and using this to propagate high prices even for standard refined and raw sugar which has no shortage,” he added.
As of now, the SRA has already sent a notice to a grocery chain with exorbitant prices well beyond the prevailing price and they have been required to give their reply within five days upon receipt of the notice.