By Filane Mikee Cervantes

Sugar sold at a supermarket. (File photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. approved on Monday additional importation of up to 150,000 metric tons (MT) of sugar to augment the country’s supply and stabilize the price.

This development came after Marcos’ meeting with the Sugar Regulatory Administration headed by Acting Administrator Pablo Luis Azcona and Board Member Ma. Mitzi Mangwang, representing the millers.

“We agreed to additional importation of sugar to stabilize the prices. Maximum amount will be 150,000 MT but probably less,” Marcos said in an interview.

“The exact amount will be determined once we have determined the exact amount of supply, which will come at the end of this month,” he added.

Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile and SRA Board Secretary Rodney Rubrica were also present during the meeting.

He said the importation of sugar would be open to all traders.

Marcos said he also gave his approval to move the beginning of the milling season from August to September this year to boost productivity.

“That’s important for the corresponding increase in production by approximately 10 percent,” Marcos said.

He also ordered the SRA to expedite block farming initiatives, which consolidate small farm lots into at least a 30 hectare-block farm, to also increase production.

There are currently 21 block farms in the country averaging at least 40 hectares each.

“(C)onsolidation is an important part of agro-industrial production. We’re looking at increasing the budget for block farming to accelerate the process of organizing the block farms,” he said.

The SRA forecast inventory shows that the country will have a negative ending stock of 552,835 MT by the end of August 2023, the end of the milling season, highlighting the need for  importation of another 100,000 MT to 150,000 MT of sugar to avert a shortfall.

The SRA said that as of May 7, 2023, the country has sufficient supply of raw sugar with a beginning stock of 160,000MT.

The regulatory body said importation is still necessary because the expected local production of 2.4 million MT and the 440,000 MT allowed to be imported under Sugar Order No. 6, s. 2022-2023 as well as the 64,050 MT under the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) mechanism will not be able to cover the 3.1MMT demand.

Azcona, meanwhile, told Marcos that sugar farmers are happy with the issuance of SO No. 6  because they are benefiting from the stable farmgate price of raw sugar, which is averaging at PHP62/kg for the current calendar year (CY).

This is higher than the PHP38/kg average farmgate price in CY 2021-2022.

Azcona said opening the milling season in September would improve raw sugar recovery because it will minimize the milling of young canes. (PNA)