Sugar planters call 450,000 MT import plan ‘acceptable’

THE United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) said on Thursday that it supports a government plan to import sugar, with volumes initially estimated at 450,000 metric tons (MT), in light of the imminent establishment of a two-month buffer stock for the commodity.

In a statement on Thursday, UNIFED President Manuel R. Lamata said the import plan is “an acceptable volume for a buffer stock amid speculation that there may be a shortage by the end of the milling season.”

Mr. Lamata said the federation “fully supports” the plan to import about 450,000 MT of sugar, saying that it hopes the presence of a buffer stock will help keep retail prices contained.

On Wednesday, Rex C. Estoperez, deputy spokesman of the Department of Agriculture, said the DA is considering importing sugar in response to President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s order to establish a two-month buffer stock of sugar.

Mr. Lamata said that the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) should schedule the releases of the imported sugar to ensure that millgate prices are not be affected.

“UNIFED will leave the discretion of formulating the guidelines and mechanics for importation to the President and the SRA,” UNIFED added.

Enrique D. Roxas, president of National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, said he recognizes the need for imports and a sugar buffer stock.

“However, without knowing the actual and projected production and consumption figures for this crop year, we are groping in the dark as to the actual volume of imported sugar which we need for domestic consumption,” Mr. Roxas said in a statement on Thursday.

He said that imports should be calibrated in volume and timed to arrive after the close of milling, “so that it does not depress milling prices to the disadvantage of sugarcane farmers.”

“The 450,000 MT might be enough or it might not be enough, we do not know. Unless SRA provides us with the figures,” Mr. Roxas said.

Mr. Roxas asked the SRA to provide projections for production and consumption for this crop year.

Jayson H. Cainglet, executive director of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, said the DA needs to consult with planters and millers before proceeding with imports.

“As far as we know, we are still in the peak of harvest and milling activities and there is abundant local stocks at this point. The DA, it seems, is now the biggest enemy of local producers,” Mr. Cainglet said.

He said the DA should determine if there is a real shortage and import in a manner that “does not affect the local harvest or milling.”

The SRA estimates that for crop year (CY) 2022 to 2023, which covers the period of Sept. 1, 2022 to Jan. 1, 2023, the raw sugar inventory was 282,524 MT, up 0.77% from the 280,352 MT output recorded in CY 2021-2022.

For the refined sugar, the inventory estimate is 214,713 MT, up 64.9% from the crop year earlier. — Ashley Erika O. Jose