Dominguez says gov’t taking ‘close look’ at sugar import liberalization

July 1, 2019
Vincent Mariel P. Galang (Business World) |

FINANCE Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said that the government is looking into liberalizing sugar imports because prices of the domestic product are uncompetitive.

At a news conference for the Pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) Economic and Infrastructure Forum at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City Monday, Mr. Dominguez said domestic prices are double the world market price, weighing on the competitiveness of the food processing industry.

“Just compare it to Thailand, where they have a very, very healthy food and fruit processing industry. There the price of sugar is world market price even though they are also producers of sugar,” he said.

“We are looking at this and saying maybe we should really take a close look at who is benefitting from these restrictions her and probably… some kind of liberalization will actually benefit the country as a whole,” he said.

The interests of the sugar and food industry have clashed in recent months, with Philippine Food Exporters, Inc. (PhilFoodex) President Roberto C. Amores saying that domestic producers are greatly affected by the high cost of domestic sugar.

Confederation of Sugar Producers (CONFED) Spokesperson Raymond V. Montinola said that the price of sugar has not drastically increased, and described calls for liberalization as a lobbying effort by the food processors to ease the rules on imports.

He added that imports could threaten over 5 million jobs tied to the industry.

SRA Administrator Hermenegildo R. Serafica has dismissed the need for imports since supply is sufficient.

“We still have lots of sugar in warehouses so if need be, SRA is always prepared to do what it takes,” he said in Pasay City last week.

Meanwhile, sugar production as of the first week of June rose 1.29% year-on-year, the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said.

SRA said raw sugar production was 2.064 million metric tons (MMT) in the first week, up from 2.038 MMT a year earlier. This is equivalent to 41.29 million 50-kilo bags, compared with 40.76 million a year earlier.

The crop year for sugar starts in September and ends in August.

Demand for raw sugar declined 16.89% to 1.61 MMT. Total sugarcane milled decreased 7.03% year-on-year to 21.67 MMT. Refined sugar output fell 6.65% year-on-year to 780,430.45 MT.

The millgate price fell 20.07% to P1,479.22 per 50-kilo bag. The retail price was stable at P45 to P55 per kilo.